Ideal Exercises for Seniors to Improve Their Strength and Balance

By Jamie Hill - 11 November 2019

HealthFitness

Reaching your senior years isn’t the time to give up on exercise at all. Quite the opposite, it’s the time to really focus on it so that you can enjoy your golden years in health and happiness.

Unfortunately, losing balance and falling is one of the major reasons why seniors get hospitalized, but you don’t have to fall prey to an injury if you keep active and exercise regularly.

Exercise improves your posture, strength, and balance, all of which improve your coordination, flexibility, and reflexes, which in turn, lessen your risk of falling and injuring yourself. It will also improve your mood as you start feeling more independent. 

In general, 60-year-olds and over should exercise 2.5 hours per week, which averages to around 30 minutes a day. Strength workouts can be done twice a week, while balance and flexibility exercises can be worked on every day.

Even if you have certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or arthritis, you can exercise daily and safely. In fact, some chronic medical conditions can improve with regular exercise. 

Since just reading about the benefits of exercise isn’t going to help your physical being, it’s time to give you the actual exercises you can start doing today.

Strength workouts

Over the years, our body loses mass and muscles. Regular workouts can strengthen your bones and muscles and counteract the frailty that always accompanies aging. Two of the most known ways to strengthen muscles are isometric and progressive resistance exercises. 

Isometric: Isometric exercises involve tensing your muscles without movement, such as pressing your leg down on the ground without actually moving it. This means you’re not working on a wide range of motion and flexibility. What you need to know it’s all too easy to hold your breath when doing some of these moves, but you need to be taking a nice, deep breaths when exercising. We exhale upon making a move and inhale when releasing the move.

Some isometric exercises could be for the chest, for example. Put one fist into the palm of one hand and push them against each other. Hold that position for around 10 seconds, then release and repeat.

An arm exercise you can try is holding one arm, forming a 90-degree angle at the elbow, just like when you flex your bicep. Put your palms together and pull up with the first arm while pushing down with the other, and hold that position. Reverse positions and repeat. There are dozens of other isometric exercises that you can find online.

Progressive resistance training: These exercises come in the form of lifting free weights, using resistance bands, or gym machines. The most important thing in these types of exercises is to find the right intensity for your ability. Don’t do too much too quickly. You can generally increase the weights you lift around two weeks after you start. If you’re easily able to lift 2 sets of 10 repetitions, that can be the time to increase. 

For older adults, the knees are often reasons for complaint. In the US, about 25% of women and 16.5% of men over age 70 report having knee pain, so you’re not alone. Seniors need to consider knee protective exercise options because many exercises or gym machines aren’t designed for low impact exercise. High impact exercises can easily injure your knee or other parts of your body. Knee curls, the treadmill, and knee extension machines should be avoided, as well as deep knee squats because your knees will take the direct impact. Better choices would be an elliptical machine, recumbent bikes, and indoor rowing machines. If at the gym or purchasing a home-use machine, you want to make sure they’re adjustable for your height, weight, and size.

Balance workouts

 

Typically, our balance declines as we age. The bad news is that as many as 28% to 45% of seniors fall each year due to balance decline. The good news is that much of this balance decline is due to inactivity, which is totally in our hands to remedy. 

Balance exercises don’t need much equipment if any. An armless chair, the kitchen counter, and some everyday items will do. Both the chair and counter can be used for support, and there are different sit-down exercises you can practice. You can also add ankle or arm weights, but don’t make them heavier than one or two pounds.

Sitting exercises could include single-leg calf raises, leg lifts, or seated torso twists. 

Standing up exercises work nicely to improve balance. Standing on one leg for a duration of time is a simple exercise to do. Use the chair or counter to balance yourself if you have to. You can also step over objects, which is another balancing exercise. But make sure they’re not over 6 inches tall. 

If you feel you’re not stable enough to do some exercises, you can have someone supervise you, which should make you feel more comfortable and safe.

You probably have some painters tape lying around somewhere. You can stick a line of it onto your hallway or on the kitchen floor alongside the counter. Walk the straight line of it using the counter as support. Again, there are plenty of other exercises that you can do.

It’s important that when doing balance exercises, or actually any exercise, that you don’t move too quickly. After all, it’s not a race, and it’s not about how quickly you can make a motion, but how stable you are when doing it. Getting up or moving too quickly can make you dizzy and cause you to lose balance.

For any type of exercise to work and achieve results, it’s crucial that you do it correctly and regularly. If you’re feeling pain, it could be that you’re doing the exercise wrong, or you’re exerting yourself too much. A little exercise every day, with a day or two off from aerobics or strength movements, is better than a week of intense or prolonged exercise. You should always check with your doctor before embarking on an exercise program. In all likelihood, your doctor will encourage and guide you and cheer you on.

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