Senior Physical Health

Yes, You Can Exercise, and Here’s How to Do It

Yes, You Can Exercise, and Here’s How to Do It

In this article

You’ve heard it: Exercise is important for seniors. But you’ve spent your whole life moving and shaking, and now that you’re retired, your body’s whispering maybe it needs a rest.

Don’t believe it!

You want to keep the strength and mobility you have? You need to keep moving.  It’s that the whole object in motion stays in motion.

No matter what your level of mobility is, even as a senior, there are easy exercises you can do.

Frontida Assisted Living Facilities provide you with posts like this one to help you live your best life.

Why Exercise Is Important for Seniors?

Whatever your age or physical abilities, you can profit from exercise and activities for seniors.

It can help you

  • Sleep better at night
  • Have more energy during the day
  • Pump your circulation, so blood and fluids don’t pool in your legs and feet
  • Build your immunities (i.e. avoid those pesky colds and flus)
  • Build strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance—so you don’t fall!

(For more detailed benefits, check out this other post on why you need to exercise.)

We aren’t talking about running marathons (unless you want to. Apparently Fauja Singh ran one when he was 102!)

But no matter what condition you’re in, there’s physical activity you can do to maintain your strength—and probably even build on it.

So what can you do? Here are a few moves for you to try.

Easy Exercises from Your Chair: How to Make TV Time Your Gym

You can do these senior exercises and activities in front of the TV, at the dinner table, and even in the passenger seat of the car.

To start, keep your back straight, pulling your belly button in like you want it to touch your spine. This helps your posture, protecting your back and strengthening your core (i.e. balance).

  • Neck stretches: Sit up straight, dropping your shoulders and raising your head like there’s a string pulling you taller toward the ceiling.
    • Gently lower your head toward one shoulder, hold it there for a count of five, then bring it back up straight.
    • Repeat toward the other shoulder.
    • Lower your head toward your chest and hold for five and back up.
    • Lower your head backwards toward your spine for five and back up.
    • Now make the movement more fluid. Slowly roll your head to your shoulder to chest to your other shoulder and back to your chest. [Note, this isn’t doing a full circle where you roll your head in all directions. It’s just moving along the front of your body.]
  • Shoulder circles
    • Try it with arms stretched out wide and then with arms bent at the elbows.
    • Roll them forward…backward…
    • Throw in some shoulder shrugs, holding your head tall and pulling your shoulders up to your ears
  • The Fred Astaire: Toe and Heel taps
    • One leg at a time, point your toe out in front of you
    • Tap your toe to the floor, then tap your heel.
    • Repeat with the other leg.
    • Go back and forth doing each leg 10x.
    • For a challenge: Try writing the alphabet in the air with each foot.
  • Bicycles:
    • Sitting up straight, lift your right knee, put it down, lift your left knee, put it down. Repeat ten times.
    • Challenge: Try it with your eyes closed. (Yes, that sounds silly, but it’s good for your balance.)
    • Lying down? No problem. Bicycle each knee toward your nose.
  • Leg lifts:
    • Lean back in your chair, holding on to the arm rests or the bottom of your seat.
    • Slowly, lift one leg straight out (not bent) and lower it, then repeat with the other leg
    • Super challenge: Do both legs at the same time. Or lean back even further for more tummy work.
  • Arm Presses:
    • Arms out to your sides, bend your elbows and raise your hands till your upper and lower arms are at a 90-degree angle. (elbows pointing out, hands at ear level)
    • Draw your arms together till your hands and elbows touch in front of your face and then pull them back out to the side again. Repeat 10x.
  • Arm Rows:
    • Lean forward, elbows slightly in front of you, arms bent
    • Pull your arms back so your elbows are sticking out behind you and your arms are at your sides
  • It’s a Bird, Plane, AND SupermanFlys:
    • Let your arms hang at your sides and then lift them up to ear height like bird or airplane wings. Lower them.
    • Lift them in front of you like Superman. Lower them.
    • Repeat both movements 10 times

Need more ideas of chair exercises and activities for seniors? Check out this great video from Vivehealth.

Take a Stand: Easy Exercises to Keep You Up on Your Own Two Feet

Yes, these exercises for seniors can be done in front of the TV, too.

While these movements seem simple, they are great for improving knee joints, muscles, and, of course, the all-important balance.

  • “Look, Ma, no hands” Stand and Sit:
    • Cross your arms across your chest so you can’t push off the chair arms.
    • Without using your arms, see how many times you can stand and sit in one minute.

For these next actions, feel free to lightly hold onto a countertop or the back of chair. Do each set ten times.

  • Slow Marching:
    • Stand on your left foot and raise the right knee in front of you. Then repeat standing on your right foot and lifting your left.
    • Keep this slow motion so you really work your balance. (For this one, fast is not better.)
  • Foot Raises:
    • Stand on one foot and raise the other foot behind you 90 degrees so it’s parallel to the floor. Lower that leg and repeat with the other.
    • Again, be the turtle—slow and steady.
  • Kick Sideways (standing hip abduction):
    • We aren’t talking about a Karate chop. Just a gentle straight leg lift.
    • Do one leg 10x before switching to the other leg.
    • Keep your upper body straight and tall and don’t let your hip bend. Just move your leg.
  • Kick Backwards (standing hip extension)
    • You can make this a gentle kick or even a pulse.
  • Tandem Stance (Not just for sobriety tests anymore.)
    • Stand straight and slowly put one foot heel-to-toe in front of the other.
    • See how long you can hold the position without holding on to the counter. Or try to just touch the counter with your finger.
    • Focusing your gaze on one spot in front of you will help you balance!

For a real challenge, try all these standing exercises or activities for seniors with your eyes closed. (Be sure you have support nearby if you need it.)

If you need visual descriptions plus a few more senior exercise ideas, check out this video created by two Physical Therapists.

Up & At ’Em: Easy Aerobics

  • Walking: Yep, you knew it was going to be a suggestion. It’s easy on the joints, great for you, and versatile.
    • Get outside, use a treadmill, or join a local indoor mall for their Silver Sneakers clubs.
    • If you need to stop and rest, try to walk five more steps before you do. Time how long or how far you walk and try to extend it just a bit each day.
  • Stair Steps:This Stair step video by ReddyHP  video is great. The basics?
    • Have someone nearby or a counter for support
    • Face a steady stool and stand with both feet securely on it.
    • Step down with one foot and back up, repeating ten times. Then do it with the other leg.
    • Then stand sideways on the stool and step one foot off like you’re stepping off a curb.
  • Tai Chi: It’s slow and relaxing but builds your balance, flexibility, and strength.
  • Dance Steps: Because exercise and activities for seniors don’t have to be boring. You can even be this guy. (He’s had more than 2 million views!)
  • Swimming: Yes, you need access to a pool, but it’s great for you.
    • It builds coordination for your whole body and improves balance because it uses all your muscles.
    • It’s easy on your joints.
    • It improves your lung capacity and flexibility in your neck, shoulders, hips, arms, and legs.
    • It’s a great alternative when land-based exercises or activities for seniors are difficult.
    • AND it doesn’t increase your blood pressure because the water keeps your body cool while you’re exercising.

That Rubber-to-Road Stuff

There you have it. Easy exercises for any senior living level of mobility. For more ideas check out this other post on how to build exercise into your day?

But just reading about them only works your brain muscle. (*wink*)

So time to get moving!

Need help with other assisted living needs?

Check out these other helpful posts on keeping seniors physically healthy.

Thank you to John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash for the featured image

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 6 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at