An older black couple lift weights outside. An older black couple lift weights outside.

5 easy exercises for seniors at home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, including exercises that strengthen muscles at least 2 times per week. Adults aged 65+ should add activities to improve balance and flexibility.1

Why exercise is critical for seniors

Regular physical activity is vital for healthy aging because it may help delay, prevent or manage many costly, chronic diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has linked 3.2 million deaths to not enough physical activity.2

Regular physical activity may: 3

  • Maintain muscle mass.
  • Increase bone density.
  • Improve balance, posture and flexibility.
  • Control chronic disease symptoms.
  • Prevent falls.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Boost brain function.

However, 28% of the population over the age of 50 is physically inactive. The WHO defines physical inactivity as failure to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or the combination of both intensities per week.4 Inactivity is 30% higher among those with a chronic disease, even though 4 out of 5 of the most limiting chronic health conditions can be managed or prevented with physical activity.5

At-home exercises for seniors are simple

Complicating the achievement of an active lifestyle for some seniors is the need or preference to stay close to home. And yet, there are many options for exercising at home, including home exercise equipment, live online fitness classes and recorded exercise programs.

A routine that uses one’s own body weight and objects from around the house and may be easily put together in the comfort and privacy at home.

Consider the CDC’s recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week. That equates to 30 minutes of exercise each day, for 5 days of the week, with 2 rest days. If 30 minutes in a row are not available, 3 10-minute periods during the day could work instead. Combine physical activity with a task that’s already a part of a home routine, like walking the dog or doing household chores.

You may help prevent injury by warming up before, cooling down after exercise and keeping water handy. Most importantly, get medical clearance from a doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen, including these home exercises for seniors.

Exercises for seniors to do at home

Here are 5 easy at-home exercises for seniors.

For strength:

Sit to stand6

Benefits: Combines functional movement with the all-over strengthening of a squat.

Repetitions: Aim for 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps total per day.

  • Place a chair with the seat directly behind legs.
  • Keeping feet hip-width apart, raise heels 6 inches with arms held straight out in front of the shoulders.
  • Bend the knees and push hips back to lower the body onto the chair.
  • After a slight pause, press through the backs of the feet to stand up.

Wall push-ups7

Benefits: Builds strength in the chest, shoulders, upper back and arms.

Repetitions: Start with 5-10 repetitions and work up to 15 at a time.

  • Stand facing a wall at arm’s length with feet hip-width apart.
  • Place both palms flat on the wall at shoulder height and width. Inhale.
  • While exhaling, bend arms to bring the chest toward the wall. Keep the feet flat on the floor with the upper body straight and chin tucked.
  • Get as close to the wall as possible without losing form, then slowly press back to standing.

Approximately 30% of people over 65 years of age fall each year. Exercises focusing on balance will help prevent falls.8

Single leg stand9

Benefits: Helps with walking and climbing stairs and improves balance.

Repetitions: Hold for 30 seconds or longer, once on each foot.

  • Stand with feet together and core braced.
  • Lift the right foot 1-2 inches while standing on the left foot and engaging the core to avoid leaning to the side. Hold onto a wall, counter or sturdy chair for balance.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as possible.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Tandem stance10

Benefits: Increases balance and stability to decrease the risk of falls.

Repetitions: Hold for 30 seconds or longer with each foot in front.

  • Stand with feet together and core braced.
  • Place 1 foot in front so that the heel of the front foot is against the toes of the back foot. The feet should be in a straight line.
  • Hold onto a wall, counter or sturdy chair for balance.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as possible.
  • Switch the position of the feet and repeat.

Flexibility decreases risk of injury and increases independence. A study published in the International Journal of Physical Therapy found that after 10 weeks of stretching 2-3 times a week, older adults had better spinal mobility, an increased ability to flex their hips and a steadier gait.11

Overhead side stretch12

Benefits: Stretches shoulders and sides of body and engages the spine.

Repetitions: Hold for 10-30 seconds on each side.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Raise the arms overhead. If possible, interlace fingers.
  • Gently lean to the left and hold.
  • Return to center and repeat on the right side.

A recent study found that physical activity was the number 1 contributor to longevity, adding extra years to one’s life—even if exercising doesn’t start until the senior years.13 It’s never too late to find simple home exercises for seniors. Not only may they be enjoyable ways to become more active, but they may improve mood and outlook, plus reap all of the physical and mental health benefits of exercise.

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1“Adults 50 and Older Need More Physical Activity,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed June 20, 2022, in new window.

2Denise Taylor, “Physical activity is medicine for older adults,” BMJ Journals, last accessed June 20, 2022, in new window.

3“Adults 50 and Older Need More Physical Activity.”

4"Physical Inactivity,” Physiopedia, last accessed July 12, 2022, in new window.

5“Adults 50 and Older Need More Physical Activity.”

6K. Aleisha Fetters, “4 Exercises You Should Do Every Day,” SilverSneakers, last accessed June 23, 2022, in new window.

7“Exercise Plan for Seniors,” Healthline, last accessed June 23, 2022, in new window.

8Lesley D. Gillespie, M. Clare Robertson, William J. Gillespie, Catherine Sherrington, Simon Gates, Lindy M. Clemson, Sarah E. Lamb, “Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community,” PubMed, last accessed June 20, 2022, in new window.

9Fetters, “4 Exercises You Should Do Every Day.”

10Fetters, “4 Exercises You Should Do Every Day.”

11Phil Page, “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation,” PubMed, last accessed June 20, 2022, in new window.

12“7 Stretching Exercises for Seniors,” SilverSneakers, last accessed June 23, 2022, in new window.

13Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, Jeanne Segal, “Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips,” HelpGuide, last accessed June 20, 2022, in new window.

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Consult your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen.