At-home exercises for the elderly are one of the best ways to help keep your aging parents, grandparents, and other seniors active. Having a sedentary lifestyle leads to a multitude of both health and lifestyle issues in both young and old people. In this article, we shall be taking you through the benefits of adding exercises into the routines of the elderly at home, as well as outlining some of the best and most accessible exercises that they can do without hurting themselves.
What Are The Benefits Of Exercise For Seniors?
Some reasons that could encourage more older people to exercise include:
- More independence: Unlike older adults who exercise, those who don’t tend to be frailer, and thus have to rely on others to help them with some of the simplest tasks like cooking or even bathing.
Sedentary older adults are also more likely to become disabled as the muscles in their lower extremities waste away from lack of use. Working out will help seniors keep their muscles healthy, nimble, and flexible, which not only allows them to do simple tasks and chores but also live more fulfilling and interactive lives.
- Improved balance: According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults tend to lose their balance due to illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, thyroid, nerves, blood vessels, or even problems with their vision.
- Increased energy levels: It might seem counterintuitive, but exercising actually gives you more energy. It does this through the release of endorphins, which not only mitigate pain, and promote a sense of well-being, but also make you feel more lively and energetic (2).
- Improves brain function: Research has shown that exercise, especially aerobic exercises, helps prevent age-related loss of brain tissue and enhances functional aspects of higher-order regions involved in the control of cognition. This enables older adults to have longer attention spans, process information faster, perform tasks better/faster, and much more (7).
- Prevents diseases: A sedentary lifestyle leads to a wide range of life-threatening diseases like cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart and cardiovascular diseases, etc (6).
The Best Physical Therapy Exercise For The Elderly At Home
Here are some of the best at-home exercises for the elderly:
- Stretching: It might not seem like much, but stretching is incredibly beneficial for seniors. It allows their joints to move more smoothly, improves their posture, balance, and coordination, reduces muscle tension and soreness, and lessens the risks of injuries.
- Swimming: If your elderly parents or grandparents have a pool at their home, make sure that they make good use of it. Swimming is excellent for both their heart and cardiovascular health. It is also very easy on aging joints and will help lower blood pressure, something that many seniors deal with.
- Yoga: Like swimming, yoga is easy on the joints. This exercise also helps improve balance and coordination, relieves anxiety, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and even improves sleeping habits.
- Water aerobics: Normal aerobics like jumping jacks, running, jogging, and knee lifts can be hard on many seniors, especially those in their 70s and 80s. Water aerobics is an easier and much safer way to do such exercise as the buoyancy supports and lessens stress on the joints and encourages freer movement.
Aside from joint safety, water aerobics also improves cardiovascular health, helps with weight loss, builds strength, and increases endurance, balance, coordination, and mobility, among many more benefits.
- Chair squats: Squats are great exercises for the elderly at home as not only do they build core strength and boost flexibility, but they also strengthen the legs– which makes it much easier for them to go up and down the stairs with little to no support.
- Walking: Aside from stretching, walking is perhaps the most accessible and easiest exercise for seniors on this list. Walking can help seniors with weight loss and bone strengthening, which reduces the risk of both osteoporosis and arthritis and can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes.
- Tai Chi: According to a review published in the journal of Orthopedic Nursing, Tai Chi is a fantastic exercise for older adults as it improves flexibility and endurance and strengthens muscles. It is a very gentle exercise– gentle in the sense that it won’t hurt their joints, and can be done by patients with chronic illnesses without exacerbating existing impairments/diseases (8).
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What Exercise Should A 80-Year-Old Do?
Appropriate exercises for an 80-year-old are those that are gentle on their joints and do not exacerbate any existing illnesses. Any of the above-listed exercises are okay for an 80-year-old to do. However, please talk to a doctor first before suggesting or attempting any of them.
How Should A 70-Year-Old Start Exercising?
As a senior, taking the first step to exercise and keeping healthy can be quite daunting. Probably because you haven’t worked out in years, you have illnesses that affect your mobility, or you feel insecure as you compare yourself to younger 20 and 30-year-olds. All these are valid reasons, but if you are committed to starting exercising, here are some tips to get you started:
- Start slowly. If there’s one piece of fitness advice that should be taken to heart by all regardless of age, it’s this one, “You must always remember to pace yourself as you start your fitness journey.” Start doing exercises meant for your current fitness level and build to more complicated or even adventurous stunts.
- Play it safe. This ties in with the point above. Start with exercises that feel more natural and fun to you. Always warm up before exercise and cool down after– this is a great way to prevent injury. If you choose to exercise outside or around your home, pay attention to your surroundings.
- Drink water before, during, and after your workout. When you work out, you sweat, which might lead to dehydration. Make sure to rehydrate by always drinking your water. According to a recent study by The Journal of Physiology, dehydration in older adults is more dangerous than it is in younger people.
Researchers conducting the study found that, unlike younger people, seniors do not experience heat loss or increased body temperature after dehydration. This is because their bodies don’t adjust the rate of sweat loss experienced while exercising to prevent further dehydration. The extra dehydration puts a greater strain on the heart, which is very dangerous for an older adult (1).
- Wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Your clothes should not only be comfortable, but they should also allow you to move easily. They should also be breathable to allow air to circulate and moisture to escape easily.
Concerning the shoes, they should have a good non-skid sole, heel support, enough toe room, and a cushioned arch. Your feet should be as comfortable as they can be. Good workout shoes might cost you more, but they are an investment that’s worth every penny.
- Speak to your doctor. This is perhaps one of the most important things that every adult must do before even attempting any of the above-mentioned exercises. This is especially important if you have any specific health conditions like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Doctors will advise which exercises the elderly can safely do at home and which ones to avoid.
How Far Should An 80-Year-Old Walk Each Day?
Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible exercises for the elderly at home. But how far should an 80-year-old, or any other senior, walk every day to get enough exercise? Unlike younger people who try to average about 10,000 steps a day, older adults and especially those with health conditions or disabilities cannot manage this many steps per day. In fact, even half this number– 5000 steps –is too high for many in this demographic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults aged 65 and older should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking a week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) (4). In a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, older adults and special populations (aka persons living with disability and/or chronic illness that may limit mobility and/or physical endurance) average about 2000 to 9000 steps and 1200 to 8800 steps a day, respectively (3).
According to this, an 80-year-old person should try to get at least 1200 to 2000 a day. Anything more is encouraged, but they shouldn’t push themselves too much especially if they are dealing with a mobility or health condition.
What Is The Best Exercise For An 80-Year-Old Woman?
Walking is the best exercise for an 80-year-old woman. It is easy to do and does not require a gym membership or any fancy equipment.
The Bottom Line
At-home exercises for elderly folk are an easy but very necessary way to keep them healthy and active. Not only will these exercises help with maintaining weight, but they will also help reduce stress and anxiety, improve cognitive abilities, and stave off many illnesses like heart disease, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc. that are brought on by both old age and a sedentary lifestyle. But please be sure to speak to a doctor before starting any exercise plan.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Ageing attenuates the effect of extracellular hyperosmolality on whole-body heat exchange during exercise-heat stress (2020, physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Fatigue in Older Adults (2019, nia.nih.gov)
- How many steps/day are enough? For older adults and special populations (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How much physical activity do older adults need? (2022, cdc.gov)
- Older Adults and Balance Problems (2022, nia.nih.gov)
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The use of Tai Chi to improve health in older adults (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)