As you age, natural muscle loss and decreased balance can make regular activities more difficult and increase the odds of a harmful fall. A low-impact daily functional exercise routine can keep your body mobile and spry, so you can tackle everyday life with less pain and remain independent for longer. Including aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, water aerobics, tai chi, cycling, dancing, and gardening in your schedule can also assist with cognitive function.
Sometimes the hardest part is just figuring out the best movements for your preferences and abilities. After clearing increased activity with your doctor, check out these great options. If you'd like to make them more challenging as you progress, you can increase the number of repetitions or use slightly heavier weights.
Power in the lower body is essential for safely getting up, walking, and climbing stairs. Weak legs and back stiffness may make you question your lower body stability. Enter: the sit-to-stand test. The number of reps you can do in 30 seconds is a good indicator for seniors.
Using a chair without arms and an average seat height of 17 inches, the average number of reps is 10 to 18. You can do this exercise with your arms crossed over your chest, or you can use your arms for balance if necessary, and you should see increased strength with time.
Older adults can get disorientated, especially when moving from a horizontal position to a vertical one, and a drop in blood pressure can lead to dizziness. Instead of traditional push-ups, you can use a wall, countertop, or sturdy chair for push-ups that strengthen your upper body and core and result in better balance and posture.
Start with five repetitions and progress to ten. You can also do wall planks—beginners can hold these for about 15 seconds, working up to 60 seconds.
To prevent lower back strain, always use your core and legs to pick up objects. Strengthening these muscles can make daily activities involving lifting, such as picking up grandchildren or fur babies, easier. You can use two grocery bags, one for each hand, or invest in kettlebells or dumbbells for your convenience.
Another exercise, the kettlebell swing, works the hips, thighs, and shoulders too. Look at yourself in a mirror or get someone to check your technique by comparing your form to expert pictures or videos online.
One major tripping hazard for older individuals is the tendency to shuffle along instead of lifting the feet. Step-ups help with ankle flexibility, butt and core strength, balance, and coordination. Use a railing or wall for support if need be, but focus on pressing down into the ground as you step up rather than using your balancing arm to push. Alternatively, walk on the spot with high knees.
Are certain items at your grocery store starting to feel heavy to haul into your cart? You need bicep curls in your life. You can use soup cans or medium dumbbells for these, and before long your upper body strength and muscular endurance will get better.
Keep your wrists in line with your forearms the whole time. Go one arm at a time or both together, and keep your elbows close to your sides as though you're holding a magazine between your ribs and upper arm.
This exercise strengthens your hips, thighs, and butt. The hip bones, especially in females, are more susceptible to fractures when you're over 65, and falls resulting in hip fractures can decrease your quality of life.
Side hip raises should be performed standing up behind a stable chair or bar, and you can start with 10 for each leg. Do the movement slowly and in a controlled fashion, and make sure your toes face forward and you don't lock your knee on the leg that remains standing.
Practicing this exercise will help with your balance and agility. It will, for example, help you get to the door quicker if you're sitting down and have visitors or a delivery. All you need is two chairs: one to sit on and one to move towards and around before returning to your starting point.
Begin at a measured pace, starting seated and then rising, walking quickly but safely to and around the chair 8 feet away, and then back to sit. You can time yourself and work on decreasing your time or the number of repetitions you can do before you tire.
By strengthening the muscles at the front of the thigh, knee extensions help with weak knees and minimize arthritis discomfort. Knee curls build your hammies at the back of your upper leg, and together these movements will make climbing and walking more comfortable. Do the actions at least 10 times for each leg.
From age 60 upwards, you can do dozens of movements to keep your routines interesting, target various muscles, and cater to your specific age and ability. For example, you can do marching or heel-toe raises with a walker to develop your balance.
From chair squats, modified lunges, side-lying windmills, and toe stands, to overhead reaches and back scratches, functional exercises can significantly enhance your quality of life. Remember to warm up the muscles you plan to use for about 5 minutes, and cool down with static stretching of those muscles.
Only begin an exercise routine once your physician gives you the all-clear. Don't do movements that cause you pain, and speak to a physical therapist for tailored modifications or if you have any concerns. Take it slow, focus on your form, and increase your exercise duration as your fitness improves. Remember that every day you exercise, you're getting stronger, so there's no need to rush it for results.
Reward yourself with a square of dark chocolate or a similar treat if that helps you build a healthy habit, and finish your workouts with some deep breathing to round off your self-care ritual. Try new activities and keep at the ones you enjoy, and you'll experience the mental and physical benefits for many years.