A strong core is a great measure for good health. From supporting your balance to reducing pain, the benefits are far-reaching. Every movement you make is generated from your core, making it an extremely important part of your body to keep strong. The core muscles don’t just include your abdominals, but also your back muscles, muscles along your spine, pelvis and even hips. If these become weakened, then other muscles need to work even harder to overcompensate, which often results in injury and soreness.
Including core exercises to your workout or daily movement is essential for the elderly. Having a strong core has many benefits too. From reducing injury risk due to poor balance to increasing your mobility, here are a few added bonuses to strengthening your core;
Making your day-to-day easier – Without core strength, even simple tasks like getting up out of your chair become difficult. Working out your core muscles provides you with a better reaction time and allows you to feel more confident with daily tasks.
It’s all about balance – One of the main roles of the core is to support the spine. This is key for aiding in stability, especially when walking. With good balance, you are more likely to prevent injury from trips and falls.
Improve whole-body strength and reduce pain – Research has found that strengthening the core can also impact the body strength of seniors by up to 30%. This also resulted in reduced pain in chronic conditions.
So how do you achieve and most importantly maintain a strong core? Read on for these great core exercises for elderly persons.
Squats – The PT’s favourite and for good reason. The humble squat is great for the whole body but really engages the core.
How to: Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart and your back straight. Bending at your knees, as if you are about to sit on a chair, keep your chest up and face forward. If you need extra support use a chair in front of you to hold onto, arms outstretched. Continue to bend your knees until your calves and thighs create a 90-degree angle. All the time engage your core muscles by squeezing in your navel to your spine. This may take a little practice! Try 3 sets of 5 to begin with, then build up to 3 sets of 10.
Leg Lifts. Floor exercises like this one may require some assistance for some older people. If this is the case, stick to seated versions or modify the exercise to perform it in your bed.
How to: Lay on a yoga mat or towel, flat on your back with your legs extended. Keeping your legs straight, lift one heel off the ground, engaging your core so your back stays flat to the ground. Hold for a moment and lower the leg slowly back to the mat. Repeat on the other side and perform this again for 10 to 15 times.
Once you become stronger you can try lifting both legs at once. It is important to try and keep your back flat on the mat, activating the core each time.
Seated Side Bends. Performing exercises on a chair allows you to work your muscles with more accessibility.
How to: Sit on a chair with your back straight, your feet planted firmly on the ground, and your knees a few inches apart. Next, hold one hand behind your head and extend the opposite arm straight out to the side. Lean to the side as though you are reaching for something with the outstretched hand. You don’t have to lean too far over; however, you should contract your abdominal muscles as you rise back to an upright position.
Repeat this exercise in one direction 10 to 15 times. Then, switch arms and do another set of 10, or 15 while bending in the opposite direction. Repeat 3 sets on each side.
Abdominal Bracing. This exercise sounds too simple to be effective yet making it a habit can have a great impact on both your core and posture.
How to: This exercise works on the transverse abdominis muscle – imagine it wrapping around your core like a corset. Begin by standing tall and draw in your belly button to your spine while lightly tightening your abs. Hold this contraction for as long as you feel comfortable, remembering to breathe normally and practice it throughout the day. Making it a habit will mean you can do this exercise throughout the day without even thinking about it, increasing its effectiveness.
The Bridge. This one is important for strengthening the lower back, glutes and hips as well as the abdominals, crucial for keeping your spine and discs in proper alignment.
How to: Begin by lying on your back on a mat or towel. Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle to the floor, feet flat on the floor for your starting position. Next, activate your glutes and core and push your hips toward the sky, creating a bridge. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower your hips with control until you’re almost touching the floor. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps, making sure to breathe normally.
The Modified Plank. Planks are one of the best exercises to target your core, as well as your upper body and arms. It is, however, quite a strong exercise, therefore variations are needed such as using your forearms as you build up your strength. If your knees are sensitive, you can use a towel or rolled-up mat under them.
How to do it: Begin on a mat or towel facing the floor on your hands and knees. Now walk out your hands a few inches in front of you as if you are about to perform a pushup, and lower onto your elbows and forearms. Contract your core to support you and focus on drawing in your belly button toward your spine. Hold for as long as you can! 30 seconds up to a minute should be the target.
Modern medicine and better nutrition mean we are enjoying longer lives than ever before. But as we enter the later stages of life, we know how important it is to anticipate the challenges of ageing. While we want to relish the many years ahead of us, everyday aches and pains, as well as increasing issues with mobility, can make life more burdensome.
An AARP survey has found that 88% of those 65 and older would like to stay in their homes as long as possible, and there are many ways you can savour a long and happy life at home. From installing a walk-in shower or walk-in bath, to adopting some simple habits, you can keep yourself safe, strong and independent.
If you want to keep your body strong and mobile, try out our favourite leg exercises for the elderly:
Before we start, we recommend wearing loose and comfortable clothing and keeping a water bottle to hand.
Sitting Leg Exercises for the Elderly
If you’ve not done much physical exercise for a while, or struggle with your balance, why not try these brilliantly simple leg strengthening exercises that can be performed from your chair:
Before you start, choose a chair without arms if you can, and make sure it is stable and solid. Your feet should be able to sit flat and securely on the floor, with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
Stand Up, Sit Down
This simple exercise can be a great way to relieve stiffness and strengthen the surrounding tissue of your knee joints.
Step 1: Sit on the edge of your chair, with your hands resting on the seat, feet hip-width apart, and begin to learn forwards very slightly.
Step 2: Before you slowly stand up, keep your eyes forward and plant your feet firmly into the floor.
Step 3: Use your legs to stand upright, before slowly sitting back down.
You can aim for about 5 repetitions here, and the slower you go the better as it will make your legs work harder.
For those who want to improve their hip mobility and cardiovascular strength.
Step 1: Sit tall with your shoulders resting against the back of a chair and your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Hold the edges of the chair and tighten your stomach muscles.
Step 3: Lift your left leg as high as you comfortably can whilst keeping your knee bent and your foot flexed. Return your foot back to the floor while lifting your right leg.
Repeat 20 marches alternating each leg. Once completed, take a break and repeat 2-4 more times. Continue for more than 20 marches if you want to increase your heart rate further and challenge your cardiovascular system.
Seated Leg Extensions
This exercise will really help to strengthen the muscles around your knees, improving your stability and supporting your knee joints.
Step 1: Sit up tall with your back straight and eyes facing forwards.
Step 2: Hold the edge of your seat while you slowly extend your left leg out in front of you (bending from your knee, not your hip). Only lift your left foot up as far as is comfortable while keeping the back of your left thigh on the seat.
Step 3: Lower your left toes back to the ground before repeating the extension 5 more times.
Once you have completed 5 repetitions, repeat this exercise with your right leg. This is best performed slowly, concentrating on flexing your thigh muscles.
Standing Leg Exercises for the Elderly
This is a great exercise for keeping yourself mobile and boosting your coordination.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of the chair for stability, with your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Bend your knees as far as is comfortable, aiming to get your knees in line with your toes.
Step 3: Slowly stand back up before repeating.
When you perform this movement try and be mindful to keep your knees in line with your feet as your knees will likely want to drop into your midline.
Sideways Leg Lift
This exercise will help strengthen the muscles surrounding your hips, helping to improve your coordination and stability.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of the chair with your feet hip-width apart.
Step 2: Keeping your toes facing forward, lift your left leg out to the side, as much as is comfortable to do so.
Step 3: Slowly return your left foot to the starting position, the slower the better.
Repeat this movement five times before switching to your right leg.
This is a great exercise to improve your balance and strengthen your glutes.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of a chair with your feet at hip-width apart and toes facing forwards.
Step 2: Keep your foot flexed and your eyes facing forwards as you lift your left leg back as far as is comfortable while maintaining an upright posture.
Step 3: Hold this for 5 seconds, making sure not to arch your back. You should feel tension in your buttocks as this is the muscle that should be doing all the work.
You can repeat this 5 times for the left leg before switching to the right.
This movement will help to strengthen your calf muscles while improving your balance.
Step 1: Rest your hands on the back of a chair to maintain your stability.
Step 2: Lift both heels off the floor as far as is comfortable and hold for 5 seconds
Step 3: Return your heels to the floor in a slow and controlled manner to get the most from this exercise.
To get the most out of these exercises we recommend practising twice a week. This will help you improve your strength, balance and coordination. You can build yourself up slowly, starting with smaller repetitions, and increasing them over time. It is also a good idea to get the all-clear from your GP before starting any new fitness routine.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying active is an important part of getting older. As we age, joint pain can begin to interfere with our daily lives and the ability to perform the activities we enjoy.
Pain and discomfort discourage many of us from doing the things we enjoy and can make it harder to stay fit and active. But there are a few simple exercises you can do to ease joint pain, whilst keeping your body feeling fit and healthy.
We take a look at the best exercises that can help with joint pain so you can stay active in later life. We will uncover why joint pain occurs as we get older, the common symptoms of arthritis, how it impacts an individual’s life, and what you can do to ease joint pain. We’ll explore the 7 best exercises you can do to relieve pain.
How does joint pain occur? What type of arthritis causes it and what are the symptoms?
While joint pain is very common and can be caused by many reasons, it’s most often a result of an injury or arthritis. As we age the cartilage that prevents our bones from knocking together thins down. This is the most common type of arthritis and is called Osteoarthritis.
How can exercise help relieve joint pain? What are the best types of exercises to try and ease the pain?
Range of Motion To relieve the stiffness in your joints and increase your mobility, range of motion exercises are very effective. These exercises often involve moving your joints through their full range of motion, for example, raising your arms over your head.
For this to work, it’s important to move your limbs to the limit of their movement, rather than pushing beyond and into discomfort. The more regularly you perform a simple exercise like lifting your arms above your head, the easier that movement will become over time.
Water Aerobics The best place to enjoy exercise without pain and discomfort in your joints is in the swimming pool. The buoyancy of the water will take the pressure off your joints and allow you to move freely and comfortably.
Many sports centres and swimming pools offer water aerobics classes so it is worth getting in touch with your local gym. A study found that aquatic exercises helped in the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis.
Gardening You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym to improve your health and fitness. Spending time in your garden mowing the lawn pulling weeds or planting some perennials will help to keep your joints strong and healthy.
Stationary Bike For those of us who experience pain or discomfort when exercising, the smooth motion of a stationary bike can be a great way to stay fit and healthy. As well as strengthening your knees, pedalling a bike will challenge your cardiovascular systems and improve your circulation, keeping your body feeling strong.
You can find stationary bikes at your local leisure centre, so ask the fitness instructor to show you how to get started and you may just find that this nifty piece of equipment becomes your new best friend.
Yoga A fantastic choice for regaining mobility in your joints, yoga is a slow and calming exercise that works with your limitations, easing into movements with a focus on maintaining body awareness. It will also help with coordination, balance, and relaxation.
Strengthening Exercises Weight training doesn’t need to be hard work. Even lifting a can of beans above your head whilst preparing your lunch could be your key to stronger, healthier joints. The way to look at strength training is to focus on the length of time you put your muscles under pressure for, rather than the weight you are lifting. Try holding a can of beans out in front of you for longer than 30 seconds and you will see exactly how effective this simple exercise can be.
Remember to avoid exercising the same muscle groups two days. You also don’t need to perform these exercises more than twice a week to experience improvement. Many sports centres offer help and advice, so speak to your local gym instructor to find out which strength exercises you can bring into your weekly routine.
Walking Walking is free and you can do it anywhere. Because your joints carry a great deal of your body weight while walking, going for a brisk stroll a few times a week will not only strengthen your knee muscles but also assist in bone density growth, helping your joints stay healthier for longer.
We have looked at the 7 best exercises you can do to help with joint pain and stay fit even when it hinders your enjoyment of some activities. Learn more about how exercise can slow down arthritis.
There are many reasons why yoga is becoming more and more popular. Your body is like a barometer, it can quickly make you realise some fundamental facts about yourself. If you know how to watch it and what to look for, you can start to become more aware of your health.
For thousands of years, yoga has been a stable way of keeping our bodies and minds healthy and able. With new studios popping up on every corner and thousands of YouTube classes available, accessibility to yoga is greater than ever. Finding the right type of yoga for you is important, take your time trying out the different options and stick with those you enjoy the most.
The benefit of Yoga for over 50s
Balance and stability
Many yoga poses focus on balance and stability, both incredibly important as you age. Strengthening your muscles and improving your balance prevents the likelihood of falls, which can be a common concern for the elderly. This study found that just after a few weeks, participants felt more confident in their balance thanks to yoga.
Not only does it prevent them in the first place, but an increase in strength and stability also helps seniors bounce back and recover, should a fall occur.
With age comes respiratory limitations and reduced tolerance to physical exertion. Anything that reduces oxygen in the respiratory system can have negative effects on the mind and body. Recent studies have shown that a 12-week yoga program significantly improved respiratory function in elderly women.
Breathing is the foundation of life. Humans can go for some time without food, but you can’t go more than a few minutes without breath, so it’s a good idea to keep your respiratory system in tip-top shape at any age.
Reduces blood pressure
More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure and it’s becoming a growing concern for the UK population. High blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease. Recent studies have found that yoga reduces oxidative stress in the elderly. Oxidative stress is one of the underlying causes of high blood pressure and especially for the elderly, is a strong risk factor for heart attacks.
How to integrate it into your lifestyle
We all wish we had more than 24 hours in a day, and the truth is that we make time for what we actually want to do. Yoga can make an impactful change to your life, by just trying out a few simple moves every day. Have a look at your favourite and most spacious part of your home and keep your yoga mat nearby.
Routine is key. Try to commit to the same time every day, as fitting it into your daily routine will ensure it feels less like a chore and more a part of your daily life. Additionally, start with the basics, as your body may (or may not) be used to being in unfamiliar positions and poses. Keep focusing on your posture and frame, to help support your core. A yoga session need not be a full hour of intense poses, start with shorter 10-15-minute sessions and slowly increase the duration.
But how can you safely exercise at home when you’re elderly? Fear not, we’ve got a few different things you can try, broken down by the type of exercise you want to do, so you can find the right routine to suit your lifestyle.
Exercises that improve your heart rate and increase your endurance are known as cardiovascular exercises.
A study in the biology journal Cell Metabolism found that high-intensity interval training programs (like the one below) are particularly effective at improving your cardiovascular health.
Don’t be scared by the phrase “high-intensity”. This just means that there are bursts of activity, followed by periods of stillness. You can do these in your living room, with zero gym equipment.
However, if you struggle with balance, or are unable to put a lot of strain on your joints, this may be too difficult.
If this is the case, you can always consider doing a seated workout. Seated workouts, such as the one below, can still be very effective at helping improve your cardiovascular health.
Strength exercises do exactly what they say on the tin – they build muscle and bone mass. But strength exercises don’t just help to increase strength, they also prevent the loss of muscle. This can be crucial as you get older, especially as muscle is harder to build naturally.
Again, if you suffer with weak or stiff joints, try a different exercise that exerts less pressure on your joints. There are a number of easy aerobic exercises you can do if you’re lucky enough to have access to a pool. The water allows there to be less strain on the joints, while still improving your overall strength.
Using exercises like this to help improve your balance can be really important to prevent falls, especially if you’re suffering with something like dementia, which can affect your ability to balance properly.
If you need to improve your balance but don’t feel like doing strength exercises, consider practicing tai chi. Similarly to yoga, the slow, controlled movements of tai chi can really improve your strength, balance and endurance. To practice tai chi, all you need is an open, clear space – such as your living room or back garden.
Flexibility exercises help improve the range of motion that your joints are capable of, as well as reducing pain in those joints.
Exercises that help with flexibility can really help those who are suffering with stiffness in their joints, for example those with arthritis.
Yoga is the perfect exercise to do at home, as all you’ll need is a yoga mat. Make sure that you are slow and gentle at first, without overexerting yourself.
However, if you do not have the space to practice yoga, there are plenty of flexibility exercises you can do with just a chair.
Overall, you should be looking to regularly practice a balanced combination of all three types of exercise. But fear not, you don’t need any gym equipment to do any of the exercise videos listed here.
By working on your cardio, strength, and flexibility, you are setting yourself up for a long, healthy and happy life.
We always suggest that you talk to your doctor before you starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any existing medical conditions.
Only one in four people over the age of 65 exercises regularly. This group tends to be one of the least active age groups around. This makes sense, as we have less energy as we get older and mobility becomes more of a problem.
This is especially true after retirement. Without work, there is less of a reason to be active in certain areas – e.g. walking to work.
However, an active lifestyle becomes even more crucial as we get older. But why do you need to stay active? What are the benefits of exercising as we get older? Let’s find out.
Improves your mood
Exercise is well known to release endorphins, a chemical in the brain that can boost your mood. The exact mechanics behind how exercise can help beat depression and anxiety aren’t fully understood, but working out can definitely ease the symptoms.
Whilst exercising, you’re producing endorphins to help improve your sense of wellbeing, but also taking your own mind off your worries to help escape a cycle of negative thoughts that can often feed depression and anxiety.
Widens your social circle
Exercise can be a very social event that helps you get out and about as you get older. By booking classes that are more likely to be attended by other seniors, you gain a chance to widen your social circle and meet people outside your usual group of friends.
Classes such as water aerobics and tai chi give you the perfect opportunity to be surrounded by likeminded people. If you’re suffering with feelings of loneliness or isolation, the companionship whilst exercising can be just as important as the exercise itself.
Helps improve strength and mobility
As we get older, the body naturally weakens. Muscles no longer work to the best of their ability, and balance starts to decline. All of these factors combined mean that older people start to lose their independence.
By exercising, you work on these factors. You can strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility, helping to regain some independence. In some cases, set workouts can even help lessen the symptoms of long-term conditions, such as arthritis.
Can prevent falls
By working on your strength and mobility, you’re actively working to improve your muscle strength and bone density – both of which can help you to balance better in the future.
By improving your balance, you’re able to reduce the risk of falls. This study estimates that regular exercise can reduce the risk of having a hip fracture by as much as 40%.
Increases mental capacity
As well as improving your muscle strength, you actually improve the most important muscle of all when you work out – the brain. By working out, you’re actively focusing on what you’re doing and, in doing so, keeping your brain active.
This means that all your diverse brain functions, such as multi-tasking and creativity, are being used. This helps prevent things like memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia. Being active can even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Helps you heal
The healing process for our bodies takes longer as we age, but exercise has proven to help improve the entire process. Exercising can actually improve the time it takes for wounds to heal by up to 25%.
This is because exercising stimulates immune activity in the body, specifically producing anti-inflammatory effects that repair muscle tissue.
By exercising – or continuing to exercise – as you get older, you really improve your quality of life long into your golden years. By reducing your risk of falls, and improving your mental health, you help to lead a long, happy life that is full of independence.