Another helpful stretch starts in the same standing position, but this time, clasp your hands in front. Turn your hands so the palms face the ground and bring your arms up to shoulder height. Press your palms outward, away from the body, and hold the move for about 30 seconds, release, and repeat. This exercise benefits the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
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Building muscle mass and focusing on better balance can help reduce the risk of falls and broken bones. A good balance exercise for older adults is the chair stand: Start in a seated position in an armless chair. Keeping your back and shoulders straight, extend your arms parallel to the ground and slowly stand up, without using your hands. Sit down and repeat the move 10 to 15 times, rest, and then complete another set of 10 to 15 reps. You can further improve your balance with the toe stand: Stand behind the chair — use it only for support — and slowly raise up on your tiptoes. After holding the position for a moment, slowly lower your heels back to the floor; repeat two sets of 10 to 15 reps.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest this amount of time for generally fit Americans aged 65 and older. Even though this sounds like a lot, the good news is that you can break it down into 10- or 15-minute chunks of exercise two or more times a day. Here’s an example of what a week might look like, along with suggestions for some exercises you can do to get started:
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Importantly, strength isn't just a function of mass. It's also a function of something called "neurological patterning." In layman's terms, patterning is when the brain sends electrical signals via the nervous system to muscles to make them contract. For example, when you think about walking down the street, bending over to pick something up, or any other movement for that matter, the brain first processes the thought and figures out what muscles are needed to make the move and then sends the signal over the nerves to the particular muscles that are necessary for the movement. The muscles move (and so do you) once the signal reaches them. (See "How muscles work" for more detail.)


The process of building muscle takes time, but the benefits are enormous for your health as a senior. Strength training requires good form to reap full benefit. Start with some basic, low-impact exercises: You can promote lower body strength by squatting in front of a sturdy chair. Keep your arms in front of you and be sure not to extend your knees past your toes as you bend to an almost-sitting position. Hold the position for a few moments, then raise yourself back to a standing position, take a breather, and repeat for two sets of 10 reps. Hold onto the sides of the chair or place a few pillows on the chair if the exercise is too challenging.
The best way to start is by sitting back until your butt touches a box or bench that’s about 18 to 24 inches high. From there, you simply rise and repeat. Just make sure you start the movement by pushing your hips backward, rather than bending your knees and shifting your weight out over your toes. Your feet should stay flat on the floor while your chest stays up, pointing forward.

For resistance exercise: You don't need to pump iron in a gym to do resistance exercise. Of course, if you want to go to the gym, I wouldn't discourage you. But if you prefer to do it at home, you can. I recommend exercise tubing if you're looking for a simple but effective way to do resistance exercise at home. Exercise tubing is inexpensive and versatile (you can do lots of very different exercises with them) and they are a great way to get started with resistance exercise. You can start with a set of four for about $20. They come in colors to denote the tension. If you order them, make sure to order the strap that allows you to attach the tube to a door, and if you want to work your legs, ask for leg straps. Here are some vendors that sell them:
Not only do leg raises help strengthen the thigh, hip, buttocks, and lower back muscles, this type of exercise benefits balance as well. For side leg raises, stand behind a chair and hold on for better balance. Lift one leg out to the side, keeping it completely aligned from heel to hip, while maintaining a straight back and a slight bend in the supporting leg, then slowly lower the leg. For back leg raises, use the same chair for balance and slowly lift one leg behind you (without leaning forward), hold for a moment, and lower the leg. Do not bend the lifted leg or point the toes, and keep the standing leg slightly bent. For each exercise, complete two sets of at least 10 reps for each leg, alternating legs between sets.
There's good news that should serve as an encouragement to all of us when it comes to fitness, walking endurance, and health. In a classic study of walking and mortality in 700 men enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program, the mortality rate among the men who walked less than one mile per day was nearly twice the rate of those who walked more than two miles per day. (Studies of women showed similar results). In another study, data collected on more than 41,000 men and women from 1990 to 2001 were analyzed to find the relationship between walking and mortality. It was reported that men and women who walked 30 minutes or more per day during the study period had fewer deaths than those who walked less than 30 minutes. Interestingly, even men and women who smoked or were overweight were protected from early death if they walked more than 30 minutes per day.
Get motivation and find support by joining an accountability group and surround yourself with people working towards similar goals. These groups are designed to increase your performance, measure your progress, keep you engaged, and allow you to express your thoughts and feelings. Search for groups through your social media accounts. Discover forums (like this one!) where you can share about your journey and receive virtual support from others going through the same experience. If you're feeling courageous, start one of your own!
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