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What are the Best Exercises for the Elderly?

By Kerrie Main
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Most senior citizens require regular exercise to reduce arthritis pain, remain independent and prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Elderly people have bodies that might succumb to injuries more often than younger bodies, but they still can incorporate regular workouts to maintain and improve their health. The best exercises for the elderly include endurance activities, strengthening exercises, stretching exercises and balance exercises.

Endurance exercises for the elderly help build staying power as well as improve heart health and circulation. Some of these activities include walking, riding a bicycle and swimming. Many elderly people prefer low-impact exercises such as water aerobics, where the water provides resistance without the risk of injuries or falls. The main key is to increase the heart rate and breathing for extended periods of time. Some people might achieve this exercise through household chores such as vacuuming or raking leaves.

Most people lose muscle mass and muscle tone as they age, and strengthening exercises for the elderly might prevent or delay this condition. Maintaining and building muscles also can help increase a person’s metabolism, preventing excessive weight gain and blood sugar problems. Some strength training exercises can be done from the seated position using light hand weights. There are several elderly exercise videos that focus on strengthening methods.

Stretching exercises for the elderly are important because they keep the body flexible and limber. They also can make movement easier, which allows a senior citizen to live an independent, active life. Stretching exercises should be done before other types of exercises to prevent strains and falls. Some elderly people practice yoga for this type of exercise.

Many elderly people have balance issues, and falls are one of the main causes of broken hips and other fractures. One way to prevent these types of injuries is through balancing exercises for the elderly. This type of practice typically builds leg muscles and core group muscles that have deteriorated with age. One example of a balancing exercise is a side leg raise performed while using a chair or table for balance.

There are many benefits of exercises for the elderly. Many senior citizens report better quality of sleep and weight loss. Others enjoy the social interaction of fitness classes or groups. Exercises for the elderly can prevent Alzheimer's disease, dementia and depression, because exercise releases endorphins and might improve brain functionality. Some people believe that it prevents joint wear and tear as well as builds immunity to common viruses and infections.

Before beginning an elderly exercise regimen, senior citizens should receive a full checkup from their doctors to ensure that they avoid health risks. All types of exercises should begin slowly and gradually increase after endurance is established. Warm-up stretches and exercises should not be overlooked, and elderly people should make sure they are hydrated before, during and after a workout.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Mar 06, 2014

My grandmother loves dance classes. She danced when she was younger because she enjoyed the activity. At some point she lost interest or got to busy for dancing. Now she uses dance as an arthritis exercise. She says dancing relieves some of the pain and she has a renewed love for dancing.

By Drentel — On Mar 05, 2014

Walking is a simple exercise for the elderly. As my mother and father got older, they began to walk together. It was strange to see at first because while both of them were in relatively good shape, neither of them had ever had an exercise routine. They didn't join a gym or walk with a group. The two of them would just walk around the neighborhood.

In addition to helping them physically, the exercise routine seemed to bring them closer together; and, for lack of a better word, they were happier.

By Animandel — On Mar 04, 2014

There are plenty of exercises elderly people can perform to stay in good physical condition. However, the only ones worth considering are the ones that are enjoyable enough to keep people coming back, so they can reap the exercise benefits.

I have found that older people like exercises that combine physical activity and socializing. Walking at a community track or early morning walking at the mall are two such options. Exercise classes at a senior center are yet another option. Working out with people in the same age group can be less intimidating and more fun for the elderly.

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