Stay Fit and Active at Home – 7 Best Exercises for Seniors

Regular exercise has been shown to have a beneficial effect on several biological markers of aging, including increased muscle mass and strength, improved cardiovascular function, and better cognitive function.

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Stay Fit and Active at Home – 7 Best Exercises for Seniors
8 Min Read April 18th, 2023 Updated:January 24th, 2024

We all know that regular exercise is the key to a healthy, productive life. However, it becomes even more critical as we move into our 60s and beyond. That's because exercise can offset many of the biological markers of aging.

But that doesn't mean seniors have to join a gym or even spend an hour or more daily working out. By selecting the right exercises and doing them the right way, you can get into an effective workout with an investment of less than 20 minutes per day. And you can do it right in the comfort of your own home.

In this article, I'll lay out the seven best exercises for seniors at home. I'll also present evidence to show what type of exercise you should focus on to offset aging markers. Finally, I'll put the 7 exercises together into a circuit workout program.

Strength Training: The Key to Healthy Aging

Age-related muscle loss is called sarcopenia. Researchers have found that this loss of muscle that occurs with aging is linked to practically every age-related ailment. Furthermore, all of the biomarkers of aging are reversed when an older adult starts a program to restore muscle mass.

According to research, building muscle is the secret to aging well. It has always been understood that muscle helps seniors move and can make them stronger and less likely to fall. But now they understand that trained muscle has a unique ability to reduce age-related ailments.

That is not to say that all retired people should overnight turn into bodybuilders. Large muscles do not reverse aging. The key is to work the muscles consistently over their whole range of motion. You can get fantastic results from strength training with just twenty minutes daily.

Researchers have recently discovered that skeletal muscle represents the largest endocrine/immunogenic organ in the body. In a similar way that the pancreas produces insulin and sends it around the body, muscle tissue constantly sends chemical signals out to all of the body's other tissues. Those signals are the reason that strength training produces benefits that are so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Find out more about the benefits of exercise for seniors here.

The 7 Best Home Exercises for Seniors 

Our seven best exercises for seniors at home are, not surprisingly, all strength training exercises. In order to create the resistance, we will be using resistance bands. 

The seven best exercises for seniors are designed for people who can move about freely but fatigue easily. They can easily sit down on the floor and stand back up again. All of the exercises are performed while seated.

Resistance Band Benefits for Seniors

Stretching a resistance band produces resistance. So, unlike barbells and dumbbells, the equipment’s physical weight does not correspond to the amount of resistance it produces. That makes them easier to handle and safer if you can't get the weight up.

Resistance bands are graduated. When you purchase a set of bands, you will receive a variety of colored bands, each with a different tension level. This allows you to use a heavier resistance as you get stronger. 

Resistance bands are the most cost-effective way to get this variety of intensity levels. Resistance bands also have the advantage of being portable and lightweight. 

The resistance bands we'll be using are loop bands, consisting of a flat wide rubber band that forms one continuous loop. They are usually about 40 inches long.

You can buy a quality set of resistance bands online for less than $20.  

Exercise #1: Band Leg Extensions

Band Leg Extensions

 Muscles works: Quadriceps, latissimus dorsi, deltoids  

  1. Sit in a chair with a resistance band held in your hands. Bend over to loop the band under your right midfoot. 
  2. Straighten the leg out and up on an angle as you sit back in the chair. 
  3. Pull the band with your hands to make it taut. 
  4. Pull your right knee up to your chest and then push to back out to full extension. Squeeze your quadriceps muscles in the fully contracted position. 
  5. Do 10 reps on each leg.

Exercise #2: Seated Band Chest Press

Seated Band Chest Press

Muscles Worked: Pectorals, front deltoids, triceps

  1. Sit upright in a chair with a resistance loop band looped around your upper back, coming through the armpits and held in your clenched fists, palms down.
  2. From a starting position with your hands at shoulder level, press your arms forward and together to touch directly in line with your mid-chest.
  3. Return to the start position under control.
  4. Perform 12 reps.

Exercise #3: Band Pull Apart

Band Pull Apart

Muscles Worked: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius  

  1. Sit upright in a chair with a loop band held in your outstretched hands. Hold the band with an underhand grip, and your thumbs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Now pull the band apart to bring your hands back to shoulder level.
  3. Hold the fully extended position for a two-second count and then come back to the start position.
  4. Do 12 repetitions. 

Exercise #4: Seated Shoulder Press

Seated Shoulder Press

Muscles Worked: Front deltoids, triceps, pectorals  

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair in an upright position with a resistance band looped under your feet. Hold the ends of the band with palms facing overhand grip and your hands at shoulder level.
  2. Press both hands directly up and together to touch your thumbs together at full arm extension.
  3. Lower under control and repeat.
  4. Perform 10 repetitions.

Exercise #5: Seated Band Squats

Seated Band Squats

Muscle Worked: Quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes  

  1. Sit in a chair with an upright posture with a resistance band looped under your feet and held at arm’s length by your sides. Your lower back should be naturally arched, and your shoulders slightly pulled back. Pull in your tummy, space your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees in line with your toes. 
  2. Push your heels into the floor as you come to an upright standing position.
  3. Control the descent to return to the seated position. Do not simply plonk back down!
  4. Perform 12 reps, doing so in a fluid, smooth manner.

Exercise #6: Rock Back

Rock Back

Muscles Worked: Erector spinae, abdominals 

  1. Sit upright in a chair with a loop band held in your outstretched hands. Hold the band with an underhand grip and your thumbs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Maintain a neutral spine position and keep your core tight.
  2. Simultaneously pull the band apart and rock back with your upper body. Try to go back until your upper back touches the back of the chair.
  3. Do 12 reps. 

Exercise #7: Seated Band Curls

Seated Band Curls

Muscles Worked: Biceps, forearms

  1. Sit in a chair with a resistance band held in your hands. Bend over to loop the band under your right midfoot. Make sure that the band is evenly looped with the same length in each hand.
  2. Straighten your outside, keeping it close to your body with your elbows in at your side with the palm facing forward.
  3. Curl the band up to shoulder level.
  4. Lower the band under control.
  5. Perform 12 reps.
  6. Repeat on the other leg and arm.

Senior Workout at Home

The 7 best exercises for seniors described above are designed to bem done as a circuit workout. That means that you perform the exercise as described for the set number of repetitions and then go to the next exercise with a minimum of rest. 

The exact length of rest between each exercise is up to you. Your goal is to get to the next exercise quickly but make sure that you are sufficiently recovered from the previous move and feel comfortable first. Avoid overworking your muscles, and consider a protein replacement like pro-stat liquid protein to keep your muscle strength up during your workout.

Completing all 7 exercises is a circuit. For the first couple of weeks, I recommend doing a single circuit. Then, if you feel comfortable, add a second circuit. Rest for 2-3 minutes between each circuit. During that rest time, you should drink from a water bottle. 

Senior Workout Warm Up

Warming up transitions your body from a sedentary to an active state. It lubricates your joints, enhances your flexibility, and moves your muscles through their full range of movements.

Here are four dynamic stretching warm-up exercises you should do before beginning your 7 exercise circuit.

Warm-Up Stretch #1: Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder Rolls

  1. Stand tall with your feet together and arms by your sides.
  2. Bring your shoulders up back, and down in an exaggerated rolling motion.
  3. Do five backward rolls.
  4. Now repeat for five forward rolls. 

Warm-Up Stretch #2: Chest Stretch

Chest Stretch  

  1. Stand tall with your feet together and arms extended in front of your body at chest height with fingertips touching.
  2. Extend your arms apart to stretch the chest muscles and squeeze the shoulder blades together. In the fully stretched position, your arms should be in line with your shoulders.
  3. Come back to the start position to touch your fingertips together.
  4. Do 10 repetitions. 

Warm-Up Stretch #3: Palm Turn

Palm Turn

  1. Stand up tall with your arms outstretched at your sides at shoulder level and palms facing the ceiling.
  2. Turn your right palm so that it is facing the floor. 
  3. Return to a right palms up position, simultaneously turning the left palm to the floor.
  4. Alternate turn left and right palms.
  5. Do 10 repetitions (10 turns on each palm).

Warm-Up Stretch #4: Leg Swing

Leg Swing  

  1. Stand up tall alongside a chair. Put your left hand on the chair back for support. 
  2. Bring your straightened right leg off the floor slightly and, hinging from the hip, move it back and forth in a gentle pendulum-like movement. 
  3. Gradually increase the height of the swing but do not force it. 
  4. Do 10 leg swings on each leg. 

Summary

The seven best exercises for seniors at home laid out in this article will help you develop the strength and muscle mass you need to offset the effects of aging. I recommend doing this exercise circuit twice per week. 

Begin with a single circuit. Then, as you feel confident, add another circuit, remembering to rest for 2-3 minutes between them. When you can do 3 circuits comfortably, it will be time to graduate to a slightly heavier resistance band. 

By introducing strength training as a lifestyle habit, you will be creating a stronger, fitter, healthier, and more youthful body. 

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About the Author

Steve first joined a gym at age 15, and five years later, he was managing his own studio. In 1987, he became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand. He has built a freelance fitness writing career sharing his fitness passion with the world.

LTC News Contributor Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen

Contributor since April 18th, 2023

Editor's Note

Regular exercise and check-ups with a doctor can really make a difference in delaying the negative effects of aging. It feels good to know that you're taking care of yourself and doing what you can to stay healthy.

But it's important to remember that no matter how much we take care of ourselves, aging is a natural process, and we can't stop it from happening.

The thing is, as we age, it can start to affect not just us but also our loved ones and finances. Even if we're proactive with our health, there's still a chance that we'll need long-term health care services for chronic conditions, mobility issues, dementia, or just the effects of growing older.

The cost of long-term health care is exploding. It can impact our income and assets, changing our lifestyle and legacy. Some people might think that their spouse or adult children can provide care, but it's not fair to put that burden on them. Spouses, especially older ones, might not be physically or emotionally able to provide full-time care. In some situations, a spouse who is providing care becomes a prisoner in the home, placing limits on their life.

Adult children often have their own careers and families to take care of. Plus, family caregivers are usually untrained and unprepared to provide the needed quality care.

The solution can be Long-Term Care Insurance. What is Long-Term Care Insurance, and how much does it cost? First, you may not be aware that traditional health insurance, including Medicare and supplements (for those age 65+), won't pay for most long-term health care services. Those costs remain your responsibility. Don't expect Medicaid to pay for long-term care unless you have little income or assets. 

Long-term health care is your responsibility. Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for these costs.

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The time to get coverage is ideally in your 40s or 50s when you still enjoy fairly good health and have the most affordable options.

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