Home > Cardio, cycling and fitness > Four… No Nine! Exercises for Seniors

Four… No Nine! Exercises for Seniors

April 9th, 2017

Simple exercises, necessary exercises, and fun exercises: find something you like!

Our population is aging steadily, and North American culture is getting older. People are living longer, staying healthier and more vibrant thanks to dietary changes, increased attention to exercise, and improvements in health care sciences. How can we live even longer and feel even better as we age? How do seniors avoid the need for in home physiotherapy or in home care? How do you recover from surgery or from a fall and prevent future health problems? There's one huge step you can take: regular exercise.



If you exercise every day or even two or three times a week, this will go a long ways toward extending your life and avoiding unnecessary pain and agony. Exercise can go a long way toward removing "those little aches and pains" that are unnecessary and actually add stress to your day, and to your physical wellness. These stressors add up and will increase your need for home care  or even assisted living retirement homes. Although these are great services for seniors, you want to delay your need for these as long as possible, and live as happily and healthily as you can every day. With that in mind, here are a variety of exercises you can do in your own home that will improve your sense of balance and increase your overall health.

Centre of Gravity Training

Reduce your imbalance, helps you stay nimble. You can use exercises below simply by standing on a solid floor. Others use simple tools like stability balls or foam pads, steps, etc.

  1. Stand sideways to a wall, holding on to the wall.
  2. Shift your weight to the centre of your foot closest to the wall. Form a "tripod" with your big toe, little toe, and heel so that you feel your whole foot, then lift the arch for extra support
  3. Raise your other foot slowly, from the floor, gradually shifting all your weight onto your other foot, closer to the wall. Bend your other leg bent at all three of the hip, knee, and ankle.
  4. Focus on a point directly in front of you then let go of the wall. Now, keep your balance as long as possible, with that one foot on the ground. If you tip, get back into position. If you are able to hold this for half a minute or more, your sense of balance is good.

Do this several times a day if you like. Try it while standing on a soft foam pad. Try it with your eyes closed. This is a simple exercise you can pick up and drop as you see fit.

Multi-sensory training

Maintains all your sensory systems: eyesight, inner ear working, muscle receptors. Perform with or without props like stability ball or chairs.

Seniors-oriented exercise:
  1. Walk along a hallway, following closely along the wall
  2. Then place one foot directly in front of the other as you walk, like you are balancing on a tightrope. Feel how your feet and ankles are working, as your support base narrows
  3. Then touch the heel of your front foot to the top of the back one. Turn your head to the side and keep walking as you were. Notice how not looking makes this more difficult.
  4. Now, walk with heel to toe while holding a book in your eyesight.

You have now challenged another one of the systems that assists your balance: the visual. By reading something up close you will throw off the signals coming from your peripheral vision that lets your brain know where your centre of gravity is in relation to your base of support.

Walking gait training

At any age, it can be important to improve or optimize the efficiency and flexibility of your walking gait. For seniors, exercising this aspect is especially important as you age. Improving your gait can help you avoid simple mishaps or serious falls.

Seniors-oriented exercise

Walk down a long corridor or sidewalk and pay attention to the height of your feet as you walk. Lift your feet properly, planting the heel first on the floor. Roll off the ball and the toes  of your back foot, lifting it off the ground and plant the heel in front of your other foot. Be conscious of this process as you take more steps, perhaps even calling out parts of the process as you do so. Then speed it up, remaining conscious of the rolling motion of your foot as you pace. This is proper gait training for seniors or anyone at any age and will improve your back, your posture. Of course, walking is a great exercise; walking properly is better.

Simple resistance training for seniors

All seniors should ideally include strength training as part of their exercise regimen. Exercises that focus on flexibility, strength and endurance look ahead to maintaining health and vitality for more time to come. Your musculoskeletal system is most vulnerable to decline, and benefits the most from advanced attention to the following types of exercises.

Exercise 1:
  1. Stand behind a chair, grab the back of the chair, with feet together but not touching.
  2. Inhale as you move downward into a crouch, as if you are sitting. Be careful not to strain yourself but push down exactly to the point where you feel a healthy resistance.
  3. Exhale as you stand up again.
  4. Repeat this ten times, so that you feel it in your thighs (quadriceps) and your butt (glutes).
Exercise 2 ideally suited to seniors
  1. Stand on your heels, and stretch out the arch of each foot, lower your feet back down then repeat this stretch for up to ten repetitions, so that you feel it in the back of the calf muscles.

More ways to exercise, ideally suited to seniors

There are other kinds of exercise that are ideally suited for seniors.

Golfing, loved by many seniors, of course: some who come to the game late and others who have waited to retire so they can golf more. There are many seniors' communities, in fact, that are built around golfing. Check out this list of Canadian active lifestyle communities with golf courses. Golf is excellent for a number of reasons: it encourages walking, gets people out into the fresh air, and also has a strong social element, which also has many healthy effects.

Yoga is a regimen of stretching that is truly ideally low impact. It stretches muscles, improves circulation and it also reduces stress.

Tai Chi is a suitably slow, low-impact regimen. Many seniors may not have heard of this ideal, fun way of working out. It combines disciplined exercise with social activity. It keeps you loosened up, improves circulation. John Evan was one senior we talked to who had a fall and hurt his back. "It was my own fault," he admitted, but he started on a Tai Chi program hosted in his retirement home in New Brunswick. Says Evans, "I don’t think I'd even heard of it till I came here. But it’s a great thing; it really keeps [me] loose and gives [me] strength."

Belly dancing is another activity that some senior women find they can relate to.  There are classes available that can be community-based while others will even tour retirement homes.

Working out is the common way that many seniors get exercise. The local World Gym I am a member of has a healthy dose of seniors in their clientele, many of them obviously enjoying their time in the gym. I also get into many retirement homes, which all have exercise rooms or gyms on site, and every one of these is plenty busy.

The bottom line is…. find something you love doing and do it regularly. That's the secret to keeping active at any age. If you don't like running, take up hiking, biking, golfing, or so many of the other choices above.

Watch the video below for more!

Cardio, cycling and fitness

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