Best Exercises for Seniors (Safe & Effective Workouts)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: February 1, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Nothing is more worth admiring than seeing older adults and seniors participating in regular physical activity.

However, many seniors simply don’t know where to start and which exercises and workouts are the best to perform for their age and current fitness level.

As a certified personal trainer with more than 40 hours of prior research, I singled out the best exercises for seniors based on factors such as fitness level and age-related necessities and preferences.

After reading the article, you will know how to perform all these exercises to lead a healthier lifestyle, promote healthy sleep habits, and solve the joint problems many have when transitioning to moderate-impact workouts.

Quick Summary

  • The best exercises for seniors include water aerobics, chair yoga, resistance band workouts, pilates, walking, bodyweight workouts, and dumbbell strength training.
  • Regular strength exercise improves balance and helps seniors and older adults function seamlessly and perform daily activities easily and without pain in their joints, lower back, and similar body parts.
  • The National Library of Medicine recommends that adults aged 18-64 years and adults > 65 years practice a minimum of seventy five minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic PA or at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • In my opinion, consuming joint supplements daily is the best way to eliminate joint pain and easily perform moderate-impact aerobic and strength exercises.

5 The Best Exercises for Seniors

A senior couple working out outside

Below are the 5 best recommended exercises for seniors to burn fat.

I've found these 5 exercises to be highly effective for my senior clients looking to burn fat while also improving cardiovascular health, strength, balance, and joint health. Through my experience, these exercises have shown significant benefits in their overall fitness and well-being.

According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 are recommended to engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity at a moderate intensity each week. Alternatively, they can opt for at least 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise weekly, or a balanced mix of both moderate and vigorous activities to meet this guideline [1].

"Balance is an aspect of fitness that tends to go overlooked until it’s too late. Most people spend time trying to put on size, add pounds to their bar in the big lifts, or finally see visible abs. For older adults and senior citizens, balance is not only a key aspect of health and fitness but general safety as well."

- Shane McLean, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Water Aerobics

Water aerobics, or aqua aerobics, is an excellent activity for seniors since it is very low-impact on joints and beginner friendly.

It is well known that water buoyancy decreases the impact on joints, making it the perfect workout option for seniors with joint pain, arthritis, and limited mobility.

In addition, water aerobics will effectively reduce the risk of injury for seniors since it provides a safe environment for exercise. 

It will minimize the risk of falls and injuries. Water aerobics will also improve cardiovascular endurance, fitness, and overall circulation.

Lastly, this form of activity in water will increase your muscle strength and tone, which according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), helps in preventing muscle weakness and reducing the chance of falling and injuring yourself [2].

2. Chair Yoga

A senior doing chair yoga at home

In my experience as a personal trainer working with seniors, chair yoga has been a game-changer.

It's not just about flexibility; this form of yoga also aids in burning calories and boosting overall fitness.

As we age, especially post-30s and 40s, flexibility tends to decrease due to musculoskeletal changes.

According to NIH, chair yoga tackles this by enhancing flexibility, joint mobility, strength, and balance - all vital for seniors to maintain daily activity ease and reduce injury risks [3].

Plus, it's great for posture and body awareness, teaching seniors the right way to stand and sit, easing spinal strain and further improving balance.

3. Resistance Band Workouts

A senior doing resistance band workouts

According to NIH, resistance band workouts can benefit seniors and older adults since they are safe and a great way to increase strength [4].

Resistance band exercises are a gentle yet effective way to boost muscle size and function. They work multiple muscle groups at once and increase resistance through the motion range.

These exercises enhance joint stability and mobility, reducing injury and fall risks in daily activities. They're key for improving balance and coordination, which often declines with age.

Seniors especially gain from unilateral movements, like standing on one leg or using one arm. Plus, resistance bands offer a wide motion range and are low-impact, perfect for those with joint pain.

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4. Pilates

A woman doing Pilates exercise at home

The most important benefit of pilates exercises is increased core strength, flexibility, and balance.

Pilates centers on strengthening core and abdominal muscles, crucial for stabilizing your body in daily tasks.

It enhances the function of back, pelvic, and abdominal muscles, key for everyday activities. Incorporating dynamic or static stretches, Pilates boosts mobility and flexibility.

It also hones proper body alignment and posture, teaching seniors to maintain good posture through regular practice. Additionally, Pilates improves overall physical fitness and balance, reducing the risk of falls.

5. Walking

A senior and a young adult walking outside

Walking burns fat and has numerous cardiovascular and weight management benefits for seniors. It is the simplest, yet most powerful exercise available.

In my role as a trainer, I've consistently seen how walking effectively boosts heart rate and blood circulation in my clients.

I always encourage daily walks because they're great for strengthening the heart, enhancing cardiovascular fitness, and significantly lowering the risks of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

It's also key for weight management, burning extra calories daily for fat loss. Plus, being low-impact, it's gentle on the joints.

It puts minimal stress on the joints compared to jogging or running, which are moderate or high-impact joint exercises. 

It is also great for improving your bone strength, balance, and coordination, which is necessary for all older people with an increased risk of falls.

Lastly, walking is an activity that will allow you to improve your mental well-being, reduce stress, boost your mood, and decrease anxiety and depression.

Related: Does Walking on an Incline Burn Belly Fat

Nutritional Considerations for Exercising Seniors

Adequate nutrition and hydration are pivotal for seniors to maximize exercise benefits.

  • A balanced diet rich in protein aids muscle repair and growth, crucial post-exercise for recovery and maintaining muscle mass.
  • Carbohydrates are essential for energy, helping seniors sustain activity levels during workouts. Vitamins and minerals support overall health, with calcium and vitamin D being vital for bone strength.
  • Hydration is equally important; water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, and helps transport nutrients for energy.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue and reduced coordination, hindering exercise performance. Therefore, a well-rounded diet and consistent hydration significantly enhance exercise effectiveness and overall well-being in seniors.

FAQs

What Is the Most Important Exercise for Seniors?

The most important exercise for seniors is walking. However, balance exercises and strength training exercises are also crucial for maintaining your stability and functional strength when carrying groceries and performing regular daily activities.

What Is the Best Exercise for Over 60s?

The best exercise for those over 60 is a muscle-strength exercise regimen. This means performing regular physical activity in the form of a weight training workout routine to support your active lifestyle and improve balance, which is crucial for all seniors.

How Often Should a 70 Year Old Exercise?

A 70-year-old should exercise at least two to three times a week. There are numerous health benefits from regularly indulging in some form of seniors exercise and leading an active, healthy lifestyle.

What Exercises Should Be Avoided After 60?

Exercises that should be avoided after 60 are the highest intensity interval training and lifting more than 90% of your 1 rep max. Older adults can experience multiple injuries by participating in these exercise programs, meaning they should be avoided at all costs.

How Can I Reshape My Body at 60?

You can reshape your body at 60 by performing a mix of weight training and aerobic exercises. To build a strong and endurant body at 60, you must perform some type of resistance training and at least three cardio training sessions weekly.

How Can Seniors Avoid Joint Injuries While Exercising?

Seniors can avoid joint injuries while exercising by consuming high-quality and tested joint supplements.

Many seniors experience issues when transitioning from low to medium-impact strength and cardio exercises because their joints simply can’t follow the level of force that needs to be absorbed by their joints.

This is why it is crucial to regularly consume appropriate supplements to decrease the overall pain and traction in your joints.

Read our guide on the best joint supplements to pick the best one that will suit your needs, goals, and type of exercise.

Let me know the biggest challenges and difficulties your experience during senior workouts and exercises.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305058/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5978883/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3410195/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6383082/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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

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