One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Kenneth Cooper says, “We do not stop exercising because we grow old - we grow old because we stop exercising.” What’s incredible is, science agrees that exercise for seniors can drastically improve health and quality of life.
As we grow older, we see a natural decrease in cardiovascular performance and bone density, as well as a loss of muscle mass in inactive adults.
Thankfully with the right exercise regimen, it’s also possible for those 65 and above to increase heart health with regular aerobic exercise, strengthen their bones through weight bearing activities, and build and maintain muscle mass with regular resistance training.
While many changes may come with older adulthood, physical decline doesn’t have to be your reality. With intention, you can train your way to better health, as well as maintain quality of life and independence.
In this article, I’ve provided beginner exercises for seniors to increase balance and muscle mass, as well as my top tips on how to safely incorporate these activities into your routine.
How to Increase Heart Health
Aerobic activity is incredibly important to increase heart health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression, and anxiety. In addition, a strong heart and lungs is important for those who care to maintain quality of life and keep up with kids and grandkids.
For older adults who aren’t active, the goal should be to simply increase moderate activity levels. Choosing enjoyable activities, you feel confident and safe performing is incredibly important.
Sunny has a wide range of cardiovascular machines, and many that are well suited for seniors. My top suggestions for seniors include Seated Ellipticals, Recumbent Bikes, and Ellipticals which provide an effective workout, while still being comfortable and supportive, and reducing the fear of falling.
How to Strengthen Bones
With aging, bones tend to shrink and decrease in density making bones more susceptible to fractures and increasing the fear of falling in many seniors. This may cause you to fear exercising, but on the contrary makes exercise all the more important.
Participating in weight bearing exercise can strengthen your bones. With this in mind, it’s important to build some sort of weight bearing activity into your regular routine to maintain bone strength. Great weight bearing exercises for seniors include walking, climbing stairs, and resistance training.
How to Build and Maintain Muscle Mass
Seniors are capable of building and maintaining muscle mass, which will help increase metabolism, as well as improve regular function. There is a continuum of strength building exercises for seniors which may differ depending on fitness level.
Ideally, exercises for seniors should be functionally based, or catered to improve strength and movement quality throughout regular daily activities. For example, carrying laundry, sweeping the floor, or climbing the stairs.
However, functional exercises can be complicated, as they often involve balance, as well as a variety of different muscle groups. For seniors who are fitness beginners I recommend starting with a few simple movements to increase both strength and balance and slowly progressing from there.
Below, I’ve included a variety of functional exercises for seniors that will help you increase strength and function with limited risk.
Beginner Exercise / Progression
Seated Row (Light)
Seated Row (Heavy)
Remember we all start at different levels, if you feel uncomfortable performing these activities on your own, hire a personal trainer to monitor your progress, or start with strength machines which are a great way to increase isolated strength with low risk.
How to Increase Balance
In your senior years, increasing balance is incredibly important to increase confidence and safety performing daily activities. With age, the fear of falling increases with a decrease in strength and balance and increased risk of osteoporosis.
Remember, to move into more functional exercises that will provide the greatest impact at improving comfort and function in everyday life, balance is incredibly important. So integrating these balance exercises for seniors, or other balance training is key.
These beginner balance exercises for seniors are a great place to start increasing balance in your daily life.
Beginner Exercise / Progression
Chair Back Balance
Weighted Forward Balance
Stationary Forward Lunge
Stationary Side Lunge
Above all, remember that fitness should be fun! Seek activities you enjoy, and always celebrate successes along the way, whether big or small.