5 Easy At-Home Exercises for Seniors
Posted: 12/12/2018 2:36 PM by
Exercise is good for everyone, including seniors. In fact, research shows it can help stave off the mobility problems that can interfere with independence, not to mention benefit a person’s heart, bones and even mood.
For older adults who spend most of their time at home, it’s still possible to fit in the four basic categories of exercise — endurance, muscle strength, balance and flexibility — that help people improve their fitness, stay limber and reduce their risk of falls. The five exercises below may be a good place to start. You can do them during commercials.
Note: It’s important to check with your doctor before you start any new exercise regimen. If you feel unwell at any point, stop immediately.
Walking in place
Walking is one of the best and easiest ways to keep the heart and lungs healthy and build strength in the legs and lower body, and you don’t have to cover a long distance to get the payoffs. In fact, you can walk in place. Here’s how:
- Wear sturdy shoes and choose an uncarpeted area. Stand up straight and tighten your abs.
- Begin by stepping in place, lowering each foot to the floor toe first and rolling back through to the heel. As you walk, let your arms swing naturally. Breathe in and out through your nose.
- Walk for as long as you comfortably can, even if it’s just a couple of minutes. If you think you can do another stint after taking a rest, sit down until you feel ready.
- Over time, as you build stamina, try lifting your knees higher. You also can pump your arms as you march.
Standing on one foot
This exercise strengthens lower body muscles that help you stay balanced.
- Hold on lightly to the back of a sturdy chair (one without wheels).
- Lift your right foot. Slowly count to 10. Don’t let yourself lean to the left.
- Place your foot back on the floor. When you’re ready, repeat with the other foot.
- Do this daily, increasing the time you balance on each foot by 5 to 10 seconds until you can easily hold the one-legged pose for 30 seconds on both sides.
- At the point you can try balancing without holding on to the chair. Stay behind it in case you need to place your hands down, and start with 10-second holds with each foot. Increase the length of time you balance until you can stay steady on each foot for a minute.
- You can challenge yourself more by lifting your knees higher or raising your right arm above your head when you lift your left foot and vice-versa.
This easier variation of basic squats will strengthen the quadriceps (thighs), gluteal muscles (buttocks) and core (abdominals and lower back) so you’ll be able to get into and out of a chair more easily.
- Sit on a sturdy, armless chair with both feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart, so that your knees are pointing straight ahead (not angling toward or away from each other).
- Place your hands on your thighs just above your knees to help you keep your head and chest lifted. In other words, try not to round your back. Inhale through your nose.
- As you exhale, push down into the floor with both feet and stand up. Squeeze the muscles in your thighs as you rise, allowing your hands to come off of your thighs and hang naturally by your sides.
- Inhale deeply and as you exhale, slowly lower yourself onto the chair.
If you have pain in your knees when stand, stop as soon as you feel a twinge, even if you’re able to rise only a few inches. You’ll still build strength in your muscles. You may even find that once your thigh muscles are stronger you have less knee pain.
This variation of push-ups builds strength in the chest, shoulders, upper back and arms, and you won’t have to get down on the floor to do them.
- Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart. Stand close enough so you can just stretch your arms straight out in front of you.
- Place both palms flat on the wall at shoulder height and width. Inhale.
- As you exhale, slowly bend your arms to bring your chest toward the wall. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Keep your upper body straight and try not to jut your chin forward.
- Get as close to the wall as you can without losing your form, then slowly press yourself back to standing. Start with 5 to 10 repetitions and work your way up to 15 at a time.
Flexibility is as important as cardiovascular health and muscle strength. Staying flexible can help you function better and feel better in day-to-day life. Stiffness can make sitting, standing and walking less pleasant.
There’s no single move that will stretch your entire body, but there are lots of easy stretches you can do without any equipment, and some you can do without getting out of your chair. The National Institute on Aging has some good stretches here.
You might also consider trying tai chi or yoga, both of which you can practice at home once you’ve taken classes, perhaps with the help of a DVD or online video intended for seniors. Tai chi is particularly good for balance.
Contributed by Maura Rhodes, a health journalist based in Montclair, New Jersey, who has written about caregiving throughout all ages and stages of life.