5 types of exercises older adults can do every day

This article will outline five types of exercises for older adults that can be incorporated into your daily routine.

Making exercise approachable: A guide for older adults
Regular exercise for older adults is one of the best ways to enhance and improve physical health and mental well-being when aging. There are many benefits of physical activity, including preventing or delaying age-related health concerns, which can help extend your ability to remain independent and improve overall quality of life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following for adults ages 65 and older:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes per day, five days per week
  • At least two days per week of muscle-strengthening activities
  • Regular balance exercises

“The idea is to make movement a regular part of your lifestyle, so some physical activity is better than no physical activity at all,” said Joshua K. Wu, D.O., nonsurgical orthopedic sports medicine physician with Norton Orthopedic Institute and Norton Sports Health. “Keep your health conditions and abilities in mind while being as physically active as your situation allows.”

This article will explore five types of exercises for older adults that can be incorporated into daily routines, helping to forge a path to a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Walking: A foundation for daily activity

Benefits of walking

Walking is a simple activity that can be performed daily and is beneficial for both physical health and mental wellness. Walking is a low-impact exercise for older adults that can improve cardiovascular health, joint flexibility and muscle strength. A daily walk also can help maintain mobility, which can encourage overall independence in performing daily activities. Walking can promote mental wellness as well by increasing blood flow and the natural release of endorphins in the body. This can help improve mood and encourage mindfulness. Studies have shown that even 10 minutes of brisk walking is enough to help improve mood.

Incorporating walking into a daily routine
Making walking a regular part of your day is not only a reachable goal, it also can be enjoyable. Simple strategies may include taking a short walk after eating a meal, visiting a local park or participating in “social” walks with friends, neighbors or walking groups.

Safety tips for older adults
Walking can be an accessible and safe activity when you follow proper form and precautions to maximize benefits and prevent injuries. Keep proper posture and pace in mind when walking, which involves an upright posture, relaxed shoulders and chin parallel to the ground. A brisk pace is encouraged to increase heart rate, but the walks should not cause undue strain or discomfort. Take breaks as needed. Also, invest in comfortable and supportive footwear, such as sneakers with enough traction on the soles. 

Strength training: Maintaining muscle health

Meet the recommendations
The CDC recommends at least two days per week of strength training activities, but this doesn’t mean you have to go lift heavy weights at the gym. There are many ways to incorporate strength exercises for older adults, whether it involves weights (including light dumbbells), resistance bands or simply relying on body weight.

Find what works best for you
These exercises can be tailored to your strength level. Simple introductory routines include bicep curls with dumbbells (or even soup cans!). Leg raises and squats can be done through using your own body weight. Gradual progression is important, and you should focus on working different muscle groups to ensure a well-rounded exercise routine. If you are seeking additional direction, visual demonstrations of simple body weight exercises can be found on YouTube.

Don’t overdo it
Older adults should listen to their bodies when doing strength exercises. Start with light weights and move up. Increase resistance or intensity as you become more comfortable with your routine. It should be somewhat challenging, but not painful. If an exercise hurts, stop right away and find a modification or alternative exercise that works better for you.

Balance exercises: Enhancing stability

Reduce fall risks

Balance exercises can promote stability and reduce the risk of falls among older adults. These exercises also can improve confidence and bodily control and coordination, which are helpful in preventing the potential injuries commonly associated with falls. This can help you maintain your overall independence.

Balance exercise ideas
Examples of simple balance exercises include standing on one foot. Use the wall or another surface to steady you, if needed. Heel-to-toe walking, leg raises and toe taps are also effective balance exercises that can be done at home. Tai chi, which resembles moving meditation, is a series of slow movements and poses that promote balance through shifting weight during flowing movements.

Norton Sports Health

We want to help you start your fitness journey, regardless of age or skill level! Our specialists are trained to support older adults with an exercise routine that will meet their unique needs.
Sign up today for Senior LIFEready classes at the Norton Sports Health Performance & Wellness Center.

Flexibility exercises: Promoting joint health

Benefits of stretching

Flexibility improves the range of motion around the joints, helping older adults move with more ease and comfort in their daily lives. Incorporating flexibility exercises with stretching can reduce pain and stiffness, enhance your mobility and range of motion, and supplement an active lifestyle by reducing injuries such as joint strains and sprains.

Simple stretching ideas

Daily stretches can be simple and target major muscle groups. For upper body, arm circles, gentle neck tilts and shoulder stretches can alleviate muscle tension and improve mobility. Lower body stretches include seated leg stretches, reaching toward your toes, calf stretches by pressing your foot against the wall, and gentle hip rotations. Gentle spinal twists and side bends can support your core strength and spinal mobility.

Cycling or swimming: Low-impact exercise options

Low-impact but highly effective
Low-impact exercise options are gentle yet effective cardiovascular workouts that are easier on the joints. Swimming and cycling are two popular low-impact exercises that reduce the impact on aging joints via smoother, gentler movements — while still providing a cardiovascular workout that encourages overall health.

Low-impact workout ideas
In addition to cycling and swimming, other popular low-impact exercises include an elliptical machine, water aerobics, yoga, and chair or ball exercises. Choose the exercises that align with your interests or feel motivating, fun and joyful based on your personal preferences and current physical condition.

It’s not ‘too late’ to be active!

Physical activity is key to enhancing physical strength, resilience and energy when aging. It’s not “too late” to reap the benefits of regular movement.

Incorporating daily exercises tailored to the needs of older adults — such as walking, strength training, balance exercises, flexibility routines and low-impact activities — can improve your physical and mental well-being into your golden years.

It is important to take your current health condition and abilities into consideration. Therefore, be sure to consult with your health care providers before starting any new exercise routine. A primary care provider, orthopedic specialist, physical therapist and personal trainer can provide you with guidance that meets your needs.

You don’t have to approach a healthier, more active lifestyle alone. Personalized guidance and programs are available through Norton Sports Health, where our specialists are trained to meet the unique needs of older adults at any age and skill level.

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