Best Exercises For Seniors To Burn Fat (No Injuries Risk)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: January 29, 2024
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Most seniors I work with generally want to make sure that they keep up their strength levels and do enough weight-loss exercises to avoid building up too much flabby stuff.

The problem is that older people have very different metabolic rates, and their hormone levels change enough to require a different low-impact fitness approach.

To help my readers better understand how to lose weight in their golden years, I spent hours going over various studies and got together with a physiotherapist to find the right balance of exercises based on scientific studies.

Quick Summary

  • To effectively burn fat and maintain strength in their golden years, seniors should engage in low-impact exercises like yoga, Pilates, and water aerobics.
  • Seniors can benefit from a variety of exercises, including yoga, Pilates, water aerobics, dancing, strength training, cardio machines, and adapted HIIT.
  • According to WebMD, aerobic exercises, known for their low impact on bones and joints, are cited as 75% more effective for burning belly fat in seniors.
  • I have found that incorporating a mix of these exercises can significantly improve seniors' fitness levels and overall well-being, making them a valuable part of my senior client's routines.

What Exercise Burns The Most Belly Fat For Seniors?

Old people doing high fives

Low-impact aerobic exercises are the most effective for seniors looking to burn belly fat while minimizing stress on their bones and joints.

According to WebMD, with aerobic exercises, the body is more likely to use up blood sugar and be forced to resort to burning fat for fuel [1].

The important thing to keep in mind here is that older people need to make sure they apply less stress to joints, bones, and muscles.

Even if they don’t have osteoporosis and regularly exercise, natural aging will weaken bones and joints [2].

That being said, there are plenty of different exercises that will burn lots of calories with less stress on the body and still achieve weight loss.

Let me give you some examples.

6 Sample Exercises For Seniors

Different exercises for seniors

These are the best exercises for seniors that they should focus on to burn more calories and gain higher fitness levels.

1. Yoga

Yoga is one of the ultimate low-impact exercise forms available.

While you might have watched some highly skilled and flexible 25-year-olds get into extreme yoga poses, there are plenty of yoga techniques and poses with great benefits for seniors [3].

For the elderly with joint issues and osteoporosis, there are even chair yoga exercises that further reduce the risk of losing balance and getting injured [4].

Simon Borg-Olivier, a physiotherapist, research scientist, and university lecturer specializing in traditional posture and meditation for over 40 years, believes that yoga is also a perfect antidote to the effects of aging.

According to Olivier, practicing yoga allows the body to move without feeling too much stress and tension.

This could improve heart rate and is also associated with increased immunity and an improved ability to regenerate cells.

2. Pilates

An old woman doing pilates pose

This is another low-impact exercise with great flexibility for the elderly to improve their fitness, reduce their weight, and avoid straining muscles, joints, and bones too much.

I've found Pilates to be a game-changer for the fitness routine of my senior clients. The gentle yet effective movements helped them improve their core strength and flexibility.

Pilates also allows you to target the entire body with just a few different exercises, and there are plenty of them that you can do on a mat or chair [5].

By gradually holding different positions for longer, you can also build up muscle strength while lowering your belly fat reserves.

3. Water Aerobics

The ultimate low-impact weight-loss exercises involve getting in the water. According to another WebMD article, you can either go for a swim or do some water aerobics that have a very limited impact on leg joints [6].

You target the entire body by doing squats, jumping jacks, and even standing water push-ups.

Standing water push-ups are also a great way to warm up for a swim, and all you need to do is stand at the shallow end and lean forward against the edge of the pool. Then lower your body by flexing your elbows and pushing yourself back up.

“The buoyancy of the water is easy on your joints. That makes water aerobics a good choice if you have joint problems, chronic pain, or are recovering from injury.”

- Tyler Wheeler, MD, WebMD.com

4. Dancing

Old couple dancing inside their home

Michelle Greenwell, owner and principal instructor of Dance Debut, Inc., shares that the opportunity to dance with movements that spiral and turn creates a whole-body approach to movement.

Daily use of relaxed, spiral movements, with a connection of the feet to the floor and a relaxation through the joints, can calm the central nervous system. It also helps begin to tone tissue and move toxins through to the core of the body for release.

My senior clients who joined a dance class report positive experiences. It added rhythm to their exercise routine, but it also brought a sense of community and joy.

5. Strength Training

You should also consider doing at least some strength training and, ideally, using the cable machine at the gym to avoid holding free weights and struggling with balance.

A significant issue for people over the age of 60 is that natural aging will also reduce muscle mass [7]. But with some targeted exercises to strengthen muscles, you can counteract some of those issues.

The important thing is that you need to work with a personal trainer to pick the right exercise combination using the right machines. But this can have a big impact on your shape and physique.

Check out our article for the best workouts for men over 60.

Related: Best Exercises For Losing Weight

6. Cardio Machines

I would suggest avoiding the treadmill and instead focusing on ellipticals, rowers, and stationary bikes.

Low-impact cardio is a great tool for weight loss.

Based on my experience with senior clients, shifting from the treadmill to more joint-friendly options like ellipticals, rowers, and stationary bikes is a good idea. My clients found these machines to be kinder to their bodies while still providing an excellent cardio workout.

Also, these machines don’t cause stress on joints, and you can easily adapt the intensity settings for your exercises as you gain more fitness and mobility.

7. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise.

My senior clients have found tailored, shorter bursts of activity followed by rest beneficial. It's been incredibly effective in boosting their cardiovascular health and keeping them agile.

Here's how to adapt HIIT for seniors:

  • Lower the intensity: For seniors, the "high intensity" aspect can be relative. What matters is that the exercise temporarily increases heart rate and breathing, which can even be achieved with brisk walking or swimming.
  • Shorter active phases: Seniors can start with shorter active phases, such as 20–30 seconds of increased activity, followed by a minute or more of rest or gentle movement.
  • Choose low-impact exercises: Opt for low-impact exercises that are easier on the joints. Cycling, swimming, and brisk walking are great options for a HIIT workout.
  • Incorporate strength training: Use light weights or resistance bands during the active phases to combine cardiovascular and strength training, enhancing muscle mass and metabolism.
  • Monitor heart rate: Using a heart rate monitor can help seniors stay within a safe range during their workouts. It's important not to push too hard, especially for those with cardiovascular concerns.

Related Articles:

Adapting Exercises for Seniors with Mobility Issues

These are safe and effective exercises for limited mobility:

  • Chair exercises: Chair exercises are excellent for those who have difficulty standing for long periods. They can include seated marches, leg lifts, and arm circles, which help in maintaining muscle tone and improving circulation.
  • Resistance band workouts: Resistance bands are versatile tools for strength training. They can be used for gentle stretching and strengthening exercises without putting too much strain on the joints.
  • Tai Chi: Focuses on slow movements, balance, and flexibility. It's particularly beneficial for improving joint health and reducing stress.
  • Breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises are not only relaxing but also help in improving lung capacity and oxygenation of the body.

Are There Certain Exercises To Avoid?

An old person using light dumb bells while sitting

Yes, individuals aged 65 and above should generally avoid exercises that place significant stress on joints and bones, such as free weights, plyometrics, and certain floor exercises like flutter kicks.

These are mainly exercises that have a significant impact on joints and bones, even when people aren’t struggling with mobility or bone density issues.

What I would recommend avoiding are things like free weights and plyometrics, which is a form of exercise where you get airborne a lot through jumping [8].

People also do floor exercises for their abs, like flutter kicks.

You can check out Flutter Kicks on YouTube, but they can put a lot of strain and stress on your lower back and hip joints.

Stick with the best exercises recommended above and avoid doing damage rather than good, and you’ll still experience weight loss.

FAQs

Can You Get A Flat Stomach At 65?

Yes, you can get a flat stomach at 65. It might take some more effort due to generally slower metabolic rates, but sticking with healthy nutrition and a calorie-deficit diet, you’ll still be able to flatten your abdomen.

Is It Possible To Lose Fat After 70?

Yes, it is possible to lose fat after 70. You’ll need to burn more calories than you consume and stay physically active every day.

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/top-exercises-belly-fat#1
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004015.htm
  3. https://www.doyou.com/7-yoga-poses-for-seniors-49052/
  4. https://www.seniorlifestyle.com/resources/blog/infographic-top-10-chair-yoga-positions-for-seniors/
  5. https://www.performancehealth.com/articles/8-pilates-exercises-to-help-improve-senior-health
  6. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/water-aerobics
  7. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/sarcopenia-with-aging
  8. https://www.self.com/story/a-10-minute-fat-burning-plyometric-workout-you-can-do-at-home
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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