6 Light Exercise Ideas for Seniors
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Are you interested in managing arthritis, improving your balance, feeling lighter both mentally and physically? Perhaps you don’t like how stiff you feel or are trying to minimize the risk of disease. If any of this applies to you, the thing to do today is to exercise. It does make a difference.

Begin where you are, do everything in moderation, and don’t strain or hurt yourself. Do a little each day and within a very short amount of time you will feel better and be able to do more. Let’s get into what you can safely begin to do at home.

Chair Exercises for Seniors


Gently ease into any exercise program but challenge yourself. Get support to keep going. If you need some extra care and support working with someone who has been trained in HCA’s Balanced Care Method might be just the thing for you. The point is to spend some time moving safely and to improve your physical well-being.

Chair exercises: If you’re sheltering in place, you can still get the exercise your body needs. You don’t have to necessarily get up and jump around for exercise to be effective. You can simply sit in a chair to exercise. From gently flexing your neck, to stretching your feet with heel raises, you can effectively warm up and do some serious good for your body!

Among the many chair exercises that you can do are:

  • Neck Stretch
  • Shoulder Curls
  • Arm Strengthening
  • Leg Strengthening
  • Ankle and Foot Flexibility
  • Core Strengthening

Example chair stretch exercise:

  1. In a sturdy chair, sit up straight and slowly and gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder until you begin to feel the stretch. Breathe.
  2. While in this position, gradually extend your left arm down like you are reaching for something on the floor. You will feel a stretch on the left side of your neck.
  3. Release, breathe, and repeat on the other side. Do two to five repetitions per side.

Benefit: This exercise will warm up your neck and group of muscles at the top of your back.

Core strengthening is vital for improving balance and stability. There are chair exercises that can be done to gain core strength. Learn these exercises to protect yourself from falls. Additionally, there are several seated exercises that are for lower back, abs, and glutes.

Example core exercise (Isometric Contractions):

  1. While sitting up in a chair, slowly suck in your stomach, engaging the abdominals. Depending on preference, you can breathe in between 1 second and 20 seconds per inhale. The objective is to inhale and engage your stomach muscles, and to do this slowly.
  2. Exhale slowly and repeat. Begin with 5 and work your way up to 10 or 15.

Benefit: This exercise works deep abdominals and the pelvic floor, which are the foundation of the core. By doing this, you protect your spine and maximize strength, agility, and power.

Additional chair yoga videos and tutorials are available online and through public libraries.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

lifting weights

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in four Americans age 65 and older falls each year. Each fall doubles a senior’s risk of falling again and increases the likelihood of an early death. By practicing a few gentle exercises at home on a regular basis, you can gain strength and improve your balance and coordination which decreases the risk of falling.

Exercises that improve balance include:

  • Clock Reach
  • Heel Toe Walk
  • Tightrope Walk
  • Eye Tracking
  • Knee Marching
  • Body Circles

Example balancing exercise: Clock Reach:

  1. Hold onto a chair with your left hand. Visualize a clock with 12 in front and 6 behind you.
  2. Stand on your left leg and bring your arm to 12 o’clock, then 3 o’clock, then 6 o’clock. Repeat one to five times.
  3. Then move to the other side of the chair and stand on your right leg and bring your arm to 12 o’clock, then 3 o’clock, then 6 o’clock.
  4. Repeat one to five times.

Benefit: Helps stabilize and coordinate movement while improving balance.

Exercise Programs for Seniors

What kind of exercise class is right for a senior? If you can think of it, there probably is a class out there for you. Naturally, the type of exercise will depend on the individual. Some have been exercising for decades and are able to engage in a wide variety of exercise. Others have never really exercised and finally choose to for health reasons. The good news is that anyone can benefit from some form of exercise.

senior doing pilates

A comprehensive exercise program should include stretching, and some form of cardio. It should also include resistance training, which benefits strength, and flexibility training. Walking counts, it is actually one of the very best things you can do for yourself. While there are not many walking classes, include a walk to your class.

Various classes which cover these types of exercise include:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Water Aerobics
  • Cycling Classes

Yoga: There are many different types of yoga. There is a class for everyone for many different levels and abilities. Yoga incorporates using the breath to stretch, strengthen, and improve flexibility. It is a practice that can work for anyone.

Pilates: This is a wonderful practice that concentrates on the core and strengthening. It helps make the body more flexible, improve balance, and improve strength. Exercises can be modified to meet different needs. Pilates is gaining popularity among seniors.

Tai Chi: Tai Chi is a Chinese tradition that is deceptively effective in improving balance, flexibility, and strength. It involves learning slow, focused movements matched to deep breathing. Each posture moves to the next ensuring constant motion.

Water Aerobics: Water aerobics is an exercise that requires water immersed participants. Most water aerobics are in group fitness classes with a trained professional who teaches the class. This type of workout, focuses on endurance, resistance training, and creating an enjoyable atmosphere.

Cycling Classes: A cycling class, also known as indoor cycling or spinning, is an organized sport that could be a great way to get a workout in! I typically requires a stationary bike, and is often taught by an instructor in a group setting. It focuses on intervals of intensity and can build endurance and strength.

The wonderful thing about these forms of exercise is that all levels of practice can be searched for online, and can be done in front of a television or computer. Just enter what type of exercise and the level you are looking for, and you will find something. The point is to begin, get warmed up, and try different exercises until you find one you enjoy- and repeat!

About the Author(s)

As a Volunteer Caregiver to the Zen Hospice Project and a Course Manager at the CareGivers Project, Audrey Meinertzhagen is passionate about improving the standards of care for older adults and educating caregivers on the principles of mindfulness and self-care.

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