The Best (and Safest) Exercises for Seniors – 2020 Guide

by Mikeos Dickerson

We’ve all heard that exercising regularly comes with lots of health benefits and can even help us live longer and happier lives. But as we age, exercising becomes increasingly difficult and sometimes dangerous as our bodies are more prone to injuries.

However, there are several exercises that seniors can do. They are not only safe and easy on your joints, but they’ll also ensure that you continue to reap all of the great health benefits that come with regular exercise, such as:

  • Increased brain function; studies show that exercising regularly can decrease the risk of dementia by over 50%
  • A better immune system; exercising regularly has shown to prevent diseases or at least reduce and shorten the symptoms of many diseases
  • Improved balance; regular exercise reduces the chances of falling, which is a major cause of injury for seniors
  • More energy; due to the release of endorphins, exercising promotes a sense of well-being and gives a boost of energy

Here are exercises any senior can do safely:

#1 Swimming & Water Aerobics

Source: freedomshowers.com

Water aerobics and swimming are great exercises for seniors or anyone that wants to exercise with minimal stress on their joints. Because you’re essentially weightless in water, it eliminates the stress on your joints.

Even though exercising in water is easy on the joints, it’s still a great workout due to the resistance of the water. Depending on your workout, you can easily get your heart up and burn lots of calories while building muscles.

#2 Yoga

Source: bethesdahealth.org

Yoga is a great way for seniors to stay active and flexible. Yoga is a great exercise to build balance, strength and mindfulness. Not only does yoga help you stay fit, but it also relieves stress and promotes better sleep.

The type of yoga and the specific exercises can easily be adjusted to the individual’s fitness level. For those with limited mobility, there are even several chair yoga exercises that can be done.

VeryWellFit.com has a great yoga guide for beginners for anyone that’s ready to dive in.

#3 Recumbent Exercise Bikes

Source: mybestexercisebike.com

Recumbent exercise bikes are a great, safe cardio exercise that will help seniors stay active without the risk of injury of conventional exercise bikes.

The reclined body position as well as the full back support of the recumbent exercise bike reduce the stress on joints and prevent any injuries from falling.

Most exercise bikes are also comfortable and can be adjusted to the individual’s fitness level. Biking is a great cardiovascular exercise that will promote heart and lung health.

TheHealthPlaybook.com put together a great list of the best recumbent exercise bikes for seniors.

#4 Pilates

Pilates is a great exercise for seniors that will promote strength, balance, flexibility and focus. It’s another great exercise that is highly customizable for the individual’s fitness and mobility level. For those with limited mobility, you can even start with chair pilates. Then, as you get stronger and more flexible, you can adjust your Pilates exercise to be more challenging.

Most Pilates exercise can easily be done simply with a yoga mat and don’t require any equipment.

Here is a great video that shows you some of the many Pilates exercises seniors can do:

#5 Walking and Hiking

Let’s not forget about one of the most simple, yet most enjoyable exercises most seniors can do — going for a nice, long walk.

As long as you’re able to, it’s recommended that you walk roughly 10,000 steps each day. If you live nearby a trail or a park, this can easily be achieved by simply going outside.

Walking or hiking can be especially enjoyable on a nice (preferably easy) trail that offers great views and lots of wildlife. But even walking in the park can be a great exercise. You can even listen to your favorite podcast or playlist while walking.

A 30 minute walk per day should be plenty to get some great exercise and close out ~10,000 steps for the day.

Now, walking in the rain or snow isn’t very much fun. If you live in an areas where it rains and/or snows a lot, think about investing in a treadmill. A treadmill can be a great way to go for a walk indoors — a lot of the newer versions even come with LED screens that make you feel like you’re taking a stroll through the Alps.

#6 Resistance Band Workouts

Resistance bands are a low-impact way to do some light to moderate strength training or even just stretching. They allow seniors to challenge their muscles without much risk to injury.

They are also super versatile, and are compact — so the perfect piece of exercise equipment for smaller spaces.

With resistance bands, you can do light exercises for almost every body part or muscle group. Here is a great video with some resistance band exercises:

Exercises to avoid as a senior

As the risk of injury goes up with age, there are a few exercises that seniors should try to avoid. Basically, any exercise with heavy weights should be avoided (some are OK with just body-weight). Exercises that are strenuous on the joints should also be avoided to limit the risk of injury.

The following exercises are some examples of exercises that should be avoided:

  • Deadlifts or Squats; very strenuous on the back and spine and can result in serious injury if done incorrectly
  • Long runs; jogging on the pavement can be very strenuous on the hips and ankles
  • Crunches; similar to deadlifts and squats, this exercise can be very strenuous on the back and spine
  • Stair Climbs; besides this exercise is very strenuous on the knees, this exercise puts seniors at a high risk for falling which can result in injury
  • Biking; biking can be strenuous on the knees but can also result in serious injury due to falling.

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