low impact exercises for seniors

The Best Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors

Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors Promote Great Health

Working out gets harder with age. High impact exercises that once were easier in youth can be more taxing than before. That being the case, you’re going to need to do exercise that are easy on your joints and ligaments. In this article I will recommend some low impact exercises with high benefits for the young and old alike.

What are Low-Impact Exercises?

Low-impact exercises are physical activities that help you get a heart-pumping work out without the threat of injury. Some trainers would define low-impact exercise as motions that keep one foot planted on the ground at all times.

What are the Best Exercises for Seniors?

  • Flexibility exercises to stretch your muscles
  • Balance exercises to prevent falls
  • Strength training exercises for building muscles
  • Aerobic or endurance exercises, including jogging, walking, dancing, swimming, and biking.

What are Good Low-Impact Exercises?

  • Elliptical
  • StairMaster
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Tai Chi
  • Walking
 Or any of the other great exercises described in this article!

How Much Exercise Should Seniors Get?

It’s recommended that Seniors age 65 and older get 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise (such as cycling or elliptical workouts) every week. That would average out to about 30 minutes a day each week. Another alternative is 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercises each week.

How Can Elderly People Improve Their Balance?

  • Stand behind a chair, grip it for balance
  • Exhale while lifting one leg back
  • Hold this stance and count to ten
  • Inhale while lowering your leg
  • Repeat these steps 10 to 15 times

Low-Impact Exercises

Here are some low impact workouts with high benefits for young and old alike.

Cat Camel Stretch

The cat-camel stretch is relatively easy, and I don't even need to stand up for it! It's one of my favorite low impact workouts. All you do is this:

  • Get down on the floor on your hands and knees while placing your hands on the floor under your shoulders, and put your knees on the ground parallel to your hips.
  • Suck in your stomach as far as possible, then slowly arch your spine upwards.
  • Hold that for 10 seconds, then release back to normal.
  • Repeat both moves as many times as you feel comfortable.

Benefits include improvements in spinal mobility and overall stability. Being on all fours engages the arm and leg muscles, preventing muscle atrophy.


Single Leg Stand

This exercise is an excellent way to improve balance and leg strength.

  • Lift one leg off the floor and hold it.
  • Stand firmly on the other leg for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with the other leg and do 10 to 15 reps per leg.

Speed Drill

This excellent exercise promotes agility and balance.

  • Draw a ladder on the ground with chalk or make squares with tape.
  • Put one foot in each square at a time.
  • Repeat until there are no more squares.

Alternating Squats

seniors doing squats

This one is good for the thighs and glutes.

  • Stand with the feet parallel to your hips.
  • Hold the arms straight out with palms down.
  • Squat down with the left hand reaching rightward, and the body turned rightward.
  •  Return to normal and do it on the other side.

Step-Ups

This exercise increases stability and strengthens the leg muscles. Here's how it works:

  • Step on a stair with the right leg.
  • Lift the left leg off the ground without stepping on the next step.
  • Step down and step on a stair the left leg.
  • Lift the right leg slightly off the ground like before.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times per leg

Seated Hamstring Stretch

This exercise helps keep hamstrings from tightening, which also affects the lower back. Here's how:

  • Place one foot firmly and flatly on the ground with the knee bent at 90 degrees.
  • Extend the other leg while flexing the foot.
  • Reach forward toward the extended leg and hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat while switching legs each time.

Other Low-Impact Activity

Riding a Recumbent Stationary Bike

Compared to a standard bicycle, a stationary recumbent bike reduces lower back stress. It's one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular health without aggravating balance issues.

Riding an Upright Stationary Bike

If knee pain is a factor, then an upright stationary bike is better. I like to adjust the intensity of its resistance for an even more significant challenge, like biking uphill.

Swimming

I love to swim; it's one of the best low impact exercises. Whether in the ocean, in a lake or a river, or a pool, swimming gives me improved cardiovascular health, stronger muscles, stronger bones, and increased range of motion.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the most potent ways to get a workout without a significant impact on the joints. Yoga is a series of exercises that promote good mental, physical, and spiritual health. Different types include:

  • Hatha
  • Vinyasa
  • Power
  • Ashtanga
  • Bikram — aka "Hot Yoga."
  • Iyengar

Walking

Walking gets the heart pumping and burns calories with less joint impact. I can do it while doing other things both around the house and outside. A daily 30-60 minute walk around the neighborhood provides plenty of health benefits. 

One way I incorporate walking into my daily routine is by walking to buy groceries instead of driving my car and by only driving to places too far to walk to in a reasonable amount of time.

Pilates

Pilates is one of the best workouts for senior citizens. Some people confuse it with yoga, but it's much differently despite also improving flexibility, breathing, core strength and the connection between the mind and the body, and all while minimizing joint impact.

These functions are especially essential to maintain with age because they have a direct effect on the quality of life. Popular pilates moves include:

  • Roll-up
  • Neck peel
  • Twist and reach
  • Shoulder bridge
  • Letter "T"
  • Sparklers
  • Kneeling knee stretches
  • Leg Swings
  • Wall chair
  • Standing jumps

Using an Elliptical

senior using an elliptical

For a cardio exercise that reduces joint stress, the elliptical machine is fantastic. It offers all the benefits of cardio with minimal collective impact. By going back and forth with your arms on the handles, it exercises the upper body as well as the lower body.

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Tai Chi

seniors doing tai chi

The art of Tai Chi is technically a form of martial arts. Don't expect to break through any boards, though; this is strictly about concentrating on slow, deliberate movements incorporating breathing exercises and meditation. Poses include:

  • Basic stepping
  • Raising power
  • Withdraw and push
  • Brush Knee
  • Rollback
  • Single width

Benefits of Tai Chi include reduced stress and improved strength and flexibility with minimal joint impact. I even use my cell phone to help; one of my favorites is Tai Chi Step By Step for the iPad, which guides me through it as I'm learning to master it.

TRX

This may be less familiar, but its results will impress you with regular exercise. Developed by a former US Navy seal, TRX stands for "total body resistance."

It isn't a single exercise but a series of activities; TRX offers many different workouts targeting the entire body with a strap suspension system that balances between gravity and your body weight to improve equilibrium, flexibility, and strength. It's also one of the best calorie-burning regimens. 

TRX workouts can help burn up to 500 calories per session. These include:

  • Push-up
  • Chest press
  • Inverted row
  • Alligator
  • Triceps extension
  • Atomic Push-up
  • Chest fly
  • Biceps curl
  • Power pull
  • Standing fallout

Conclusion

The older I get, the more I care about joint health. But I still need to stay healthy. Low impact aerobics is an ideal way to maintain health as a senior citizen. But you don't have to be one to benefit; they still work at any age when done regularly. 

Looking for other ways you can get a low impact workout from home? Take a look at my list of the best low impact exercise machines!

About the Author Kara McMahon

Hi, I'm Kara! I am a stay-at-home mom with a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. I enjoy getting lost on Pinterest, going to Starbucks, and baking healthy cookies. I’ve decided to share my love of fitness by building this site. I hope you enjoy your stay!

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