Exercise ideas for older people

As we get older it can be more difficult to do the same sort of exercise we did when we were younger.   Long runs and gymnastics might be lots of fun but dodgy knees and arthritis might start to affect your mobility.  The fear of falling over and breaking a bone that has become brittle with osteoporosis is also a big concern later in life.

However, as you get older exercise becomes increasingly important.  Obesity can cause heart problems, diabetes and ever perpetuate those dodgy knees and hips.  Strong muscles help you to maintain a healthy bone- mass and also stop muscle-loss. This can mean that you can stay healthy, fit and independent.

Sitting Exercises

If you haven’t exercised for a while or you have any aches and pains, the NHS recommend you check with your GP before you start any exercise activity.  Once you’ve had the all-clear  it’s always best to start off gently.  Sitting exercises are a good place to start and they have the added benefit that they can be done whilst you are watching TV. Just make sure you’re in a nice stable chair without wheels.  It’s best to keep some water handy to ensure you stay hydrated and have loose comfortable clothes on so you have some freedom of movement. Some nice exercises to start with include:-

  • Chest stretches
  • Ankle stretches 
  • Neck stretches

Once you feel nice and loose, you can progress on to some upper body twists, arm raises and neck rotation.  If your freedom of movement is limited, sitting exercises are ideal.  If you feel that your freedom of movement is good then you can try strength, balance and cardio exercises.

Strength Exercises

Strength exercises not only increase your muscle mass, they can increase your metabolism too which will help keep your body fat and sugar levels in check, which in turns lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Some good strength exercises include:-

  • Sitting down and standing up
  • Bicep Curls
  • Leg extensions
  • Calf raises

Balance Exercises

One of the biggest causes of broken hips is falling over.  Improving your balance can help considerably and prevent you from having a nasty fall.  Balance exercises are particularly good as they can be done anywhere.  They include:-

  • Grapevine walking
  • Heel-to-toe walking
  • Standing on one leg
  • Walking sideways (like a crab)
  • Going up and down steps

Cardio exercises are a great way of keeping your heart healthy and can lead to weight loss by burning calories and boosting your metabolism.  Good cardio exercises include:-

  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Jogging
  • Swimming

Start off gently for maybe 5 minutes at a time and make sure you stop if you feel in pain or are short of breath.  Over time you will see that your stamina increases and you can do more and more cardio before you are short of breath.  Make sure you take your time and listen to your body so that you stay healthy and injury-free.

Both the NHS and Age UK have lots of information about exercising for older people and are good resources to look at.  They both strongly advise a quick chat with your GP before starting any exercise programme.