Looking for a way to stay physically fit that doesn’t do a number on your bones and joints? These 6 safe, fun, and effective fitness programs for older adults will help you retain mobility, improve physical function, increase muscle mass and strength, enhance coordination and balance, and uplift your mood. In the comments section below, let us know which one, or all, you decide to try!
Water provides resistance that strengthens your muscles and builds bone mineral density (BMD) without putting pressure on your knees, hips, or spine, making it a great fitness program for older adults with arthritis or osteoporosis. Swimming also improves flexibility and posture and helps alleviate back pain. And the aerobic nature of swimming helps lower blood pressure, boost circulation, and protect against heart and lung diseases.
In addition to the physical benefits, swimming can help keep the mind healthy and sharp according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Aging Research (1).
There are many ways to get moving in the water, be it with timed swimming drills or by joining a water aerobics class, which lends a social element to the physical activity that can foster feelings of happiness and connection.
Watch this video to get ideas for swimming exercises for older adults.
Depending on the type, yoga can increase muscle strength, prime the cardiovascular system, build core stability, deepen balance and flexibility, and promote total-body mobility. Gentle on the joints, all styles of yoga use body weight for resistance, focus on a connection to breath and posture, and help reduce anxiety and stress.
Yoga Styles to Try
- Iyengar: Known for its emphasis on form and use of props like straps and bolsters, Iyengar yoga is approachable for older adults of all fitness levels.
- Hatha: Most of the postures practiced in hatha yoga incorporate breathing and stretching and can be modified for senior fitness.
- Restorative: Long-held poses and the use of props coupled with meditative and slow movements help promote relaxation.
- Ashtanga: If you’re looking for a more physically powerful exercise class that gets the heart rate up and the circulation pumping, ashtanga may be a great fit.
- Kundalini: Known as the “yoga of awareness,” kundalini yoga takes a more spiritual approach with breathing exercises, meditation, and chanting.
Ready to give it a try now? Check out this 7-Minute Yoga Workout for Older Adults from SilverSneakers.
This low-impact resistance-training program focuses on core stability, strength, and coordination. A Journal of Sports Science study showed that when women over 65 participated in Pilates for 1 hour 3 times a week for 12 weeks they saw significant gains in balance, strength, and reaction time, as well as a reduced risk for falls (2).
Pilates classes can be centered on the Reformer, which is an exercise machine that applies resistance to muscle groups using bars, springs, and straps. But Pilates can just as effectively work the core and the smaller muscle groups on the mat using your own body weight or a few simple props, like balls and rings.
Give it a go with this 30-minute Standing Pilates for Seniors exercise routine.
4. Resistance Bands
Portable and convenient, resistance bands help you access muscle groups that aren’t as easily touched by lifting weights or using your body weight. Resistance bands keep you functionally strong and mobile by working your body through many different angles, which supports physical activities you participate in throughout the day.
Resistance bands are also appropriate for all levels, as you can use them for both standing and seated strength-training exercises. When working through a resistance band routine it’s recommended to do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps, resting for 30-90 seconds between sets.
Get started with this 15-minute Introduction to Resistance Bands for Seniors.
5. Tai Chi
When it comes to exercise for seniors, tai chi deserves a mention. Dubbed “meditation in motion,” tai chi is an internal martial art that cultivates mental and spiritual strength in addition to physical strength. It improves flexibility and mobility with balance exercises, and can lower your risk of falling by up to 50% according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Tai chi is an especially beneficial exercise program for older adults with osteoarthritis or joint pain. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that tai chi worked just as well as physical therapy to help alleviate the pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis of the knee (3). And a study in the Journal of Rheumatology showed that tai chi can help the joints maintain range of motion and alleviate joint pain (4).
Tai chi can also help you lose weight, improve your posture, sleep better, and contribute to better overall health.
Getting started is easy with this Introduction to Tai Chi.
6. Dance Cardio
Dance cardio comes in many forms—Zumba, Jazzercise, or Bokwa, a South African, hip-hop style cardio class. Designed to increase your heart rate, boost mood, and optimize heart health, these aerobic routines can be modified and made approachable for all ages and fitness levels.
Start dancing with Paul Eugene in his Senior Gold Dance Cardio Workout!
SilverSneakers: Making Fitness Programs for Older Adults Accessible
If you’re an older adult in search of a fun fitness program you may have stumbled upon the SilverSneakers program.
Covered by some Medicare Plans, SilverSneakers gives seniors access to all types of health and fitness classes through different gyms across the country.
Need some motivation? A 2019 study showed that SilverSneaker participants who went to the gym the most had higher physical and mental scores (5). And another recent report shows that SilverSneaker members who engaged in regular exercise had lower total healthcare costs and smaller increases in healthcare costs over two years (6).
You can check your eligibility and even start working out online now through the SilverSneakers website.
Before You Start Exercising, Do This!
First, a word of caution: It’s a good idea to check in with your health care provider to make sure an exercise program won’t exacerbate chronic conditions, preexisting injuries, or balance or mobility issues.
Once you get the go-ahead, don’t step onto the playing field unarmed. Without the support of adequate nutrition to help strengthen your muscles and increase your stamina, inflammation and injury can run amok.
To support healthy aging and help you have the best workouts possible we developed a special blend of the top nutrients for exercise and well-being. The ingredients in this workout supplement, which include the essential amino acids and creatine, have been clinically proven to improve muscle performance during exercise, enhance mental clarity and concentration, reduce fatigue and dehydration, and minimize recovery times.
Get your muscle-maximizing recovery supplement here, and get ready to have the best workouts of your life!