8 Exercises To Get Seniors In Shape

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and should continue into our later years. In fact exercise can be particularly important for seniors.

More and more older adults are taking up exercise and ditching the sedentary lifestyle of retirement. 

8 Exercises To Get Seniors In Shape

To help with this, we have found 8 exercises to get seniors in shape. These are all suitable for older people and include aerobic exercises, strength training and flexibility exercises. 

So let’s get moving! 

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics is a very popular exercise for seniors and for good reason. Not only is it great fun, it is also a very effective but gentle form of exercise.

For older adults especially those with joint issues the supportive environment of the water is the perfect place to exercise. 

As the buoyancy of the water holds their bodies up it means that there is less weight bearing on their muscles and bones. But this is not the only benefit of water aerobics. 

Water has natural resistance and this adds another layer of exercise to this activity. It allows seniors to improve their strength without the need for weights.

Water aerobics also increases flexibility and balance both of which are very important for older adults. 

The kinds of exercises that seniors will do as part of a water aerobics class include aqua jogging, leg lifts, arm curls, flutter kicks and standing water push-ups. 

These activities all have minimal impact on the body making them ideal for older people. 

Chair Yoga

This is another great exercise program for seniors. It is a low impact physical activity which can also be done by those who are confined to a wheelchair.

Chair yoga improves muscle strength, flexibility, mobility and balance. These are all very important for the elderly. 

As it creates less stress on bones, muscles and joints it is a safe option for those with certain medical conditions that cannot do regular exercise or conventional yoga. 

Taking part in chair yoga classes can improve the mental as well as physical health of seniors.

Studies have shown that participants in chair yoga experience better quality sleep, fewer instances of depression and a great sense of well being. 

Some of the exercises that older adults can do during a chair yoga session include overhead stretch, seated cat stretch, seated mountain pose, seated twist and seated cow stretch. 

As yoga is highly adaptable, poses can be modified to take account of any injuries or disabilities by changing an arm angle or position. 


Pilates incorporates more movement into its exercises whereas yoga is more about holding static poses.

It can be very beneficial for improving flexibility and increasing strength. For seniors, it is an excellent form of exercise as it is a low impact physical activity. 

The exercises which form Pilates are designed around breathing, alignment, core strength and concentration. It uses inflated accessories such as balls and mats for carrying out these exercises.

Pilates improves balance, increases flexibility and develops core strength. 

Numerous Pilates programs are geared towards older adults and can be adapted for conditions such as osteoporosis.

As a growing problem among seniors osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and the deterioration of the quality of the bone. 

Pilates which incorporates weight bearing exercises can be beneficial for those at risk of osteoporosis. The improvement in balance that it facilitates also helps to reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

It also boosts immunity, prevents injury and decreases back pain. 

The mental benefits of Pilates also include decreased stress and mood boost. 

8 Exercises To Get Seniors In Shape


One of the best and most accessible forms of exercise for mobile seniors is walking. Of course, the distance and type of walking will depend on the individual abilities of each older adult.

Hiking is probably not for everyone but gentle nature walks are a great stress reliever. 

For active seniors 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day is recommended. For individuals with a disability or chronic illness the target should be lowered, perhaps 5,000 steps per day.

Matching the target number of steps to an individual’s ability will be necessary. 

Walking strengthens muscles and can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and stroke. It is a cardiovascular type of exercise and when it is done in nature has many other benefits. 

Taking walks by the beach, in forests, or in the mountains will not just give seniors plenty of fresh air but will lift their spirits too. For mobile and active seniors walking on different types of terrain improves agility, strength and balance.

Resistance Band Workouts

Resistance bands are strips of stretchy rubber which add resistance to a workout without too much stress on the body.

They are extremely user friendly and relatively inexpensive so ideal for seniors. Using resistance bands can be done at home or as part of a class. 

They are ideal for core strengthening which improves balance, posture and mobility all of which are vital for older adults. With resistance bands it is possible for seniors to challenge muscles that they would be unable to do without equipment. 

As these bands are lightweight and portable it is possible to exercise with them anywhere and users are not confined to a gym or their home in order to use them. 

Exercises can be done in the garden, on the beach or beside a lake. They can also be used sitting down for those individuals who are less mobile.

It is advisable, as with any form of exercise, for seniors to consult their doctor before embarking on an exercise program. 


Another great, low impact form of exercise is cycling. It is ideal for those who want to increase their leg strength but cannot jog or engage in high impact activities. 

Cycling helps to improve metabolic and cardiovascular health. For seniors over the age of 70 cycling has been shown to also help with cognitive performance. 

Bike trails are the best place to enjoy cycling and going with friends and family make it an even better experience for seniors. Anyone with balance issues should probably avoid cycling particularly outdoors. 

If outdoor cycling is not an option then there are plenty of options for indoor cycling. Recumbent bikes are fantastic for older adults as they unload the joints making it perfect for people with hip, knee or ankle joint problems. 

The smooth motion of a bicycle or recumbent bike doesn’t put any undue strain on the body. This is what makes it a good choice for older adults as it is still a cardiovascular activity and will strengthen the legs. 


For seniors who are less sporty but still want to get in shape, dancing is a great way to exercise. The wonderful thing about dancing is that there is slow dancing, mid-tempo or high activity dancing. 

This allows seniors to choose the type of dancing that suits them best. It also allows them to work up from the slower forms of dance to a higher activity level. Dancing can be done with a partner, as a group or on your own.

For sociable people who like to socialize, dance classes are a wonderful way to exercise and meet new people. Others may prefer to do dance exercises in the privacy of their own homes. 

Dancing is fun, but it is also a great form of cardiovascular exercise. It simultaneously improves balance and flexibility, both of which are very important for seniors.

Something that may not be readily apparent is how dancing can improve the memory and mind of older adults as they need to memorize steps and listen to the music at the same time. 

Body Weight Training

Muscle loss is something that around a third of older people live with. It can be a devastating and debilitating condition which can lead to hormone problems as well as a reduced ability to metabolize protein. 

Body weight training is one of the most effective ways of counteracting the effects of muscle loss in seniors. It is also a very inexpensive type of workout as you don’t need any equipment except perhaps a mat to reduce impact on the floor. 

Some of the best body weight workout exercises for seniors are step-ups, squats to chair, lying hip bridges, bird dog and side lying circles. 

Strength training exercises such as these are a good way to fight against bone and muscle loss.

They can help seniors stay active and mobile for longer by strengthening muscles that are used for daily activities such as walking and getting up from a chair. 

Final Thoughts

Exercise is important at all stages of life but for seniors it can be critical. Being active and mobile allows older adults to remain independent for longer among other things. 

The type of exercise that seniors embark on should be suitable for their ability and adapted for any medical or physical conditions. It is advisable to seek the advice of a doctor before beginning any exercise regime. 

Laura Simmons

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