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Stay Active, Stay Independent: Exercise and Physical Activity for Seniors

Feb 27, 2023 | Health & Wellness, Independent Living

We all know that exercise is important for our health, but as we age, it can impact our ability to maintain our independence. Regular physical activity can help seniors stay independent by improving strength, balance, and flexibility. Exercise can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. So, if you’re looking to stay active and independent in your golden years, make sure to include plenty of exercise in your daily routine.

The importance of exercise for seniors

Exercise is one of the best things seniors can do for their physical and mental health. Not only does exercise promote cardiovascular endurance, but it also increases strength, improves balance and coordination, minimizes the risk of falls, reduces symptoms of depression and dementia, keeps joints healthy, and aids mobility.

Always consult with your physician

Working out is a great way to stay strong, healthy, and happy, but it’s important to consult your healthcare provider before starting an exercise routine. This way, they can assess any underlying issues or health considerations which could impact how much exercise you should do.

Not only that but talking to your doctor can help you create a plan tailored to your needs and make sure you’re on the right track. Make sure to listen to your body too – if something doesn’t feel right, take a step back and consult a medical professional.

How to get started with an exercise routine

Starting an exercise routine can be intimidating, so keep it simple. Find something enjoyable, be it walking, water aerobics, or chair yoga, and keep a regular schedule. Doing something you like makes it easier to stay consistent and consistency is key.

Exercise machines

There are several exercise machine options available to help you stay active and healthy.

Hand cycles are a great option for those who are looking for an upper-body workout, as they allow you to pedal with your hands rather than your feet. Increasing your upper body strength.

Stationary bikes are another popular choice, with both recumbent and upright models available. These machines can help improve cardiovascular health, leg strength, and overall endurance.

Portable pedals can be used while sitting in a chair or on the couch. These pedal machines are lightweight and easy to store, making them a great option for seniors who have limited space in their homes.

With these machine options, seniors with limited mobility can stay active and healthy in the comfort of their own homes.

Modify exercises as needed

If you’re a senior with mobility issues, you can modify or choose specific exercises to suit your needs. For example, you can focus on low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, or cycling to improve your cardiovascular health.

If you don’t like swimming or cycling, there are low-impact seated exercises that can help improve balance and core and upper body strength. Below are three seated exercises:

  1. Seated Leg Raises: While seated in a chair, lift one leg straight out in front of you, hold for a few seconds, and then lower it back down. Repeat on the other leg. This exercise helps to strengthen the leg muscles and improve balance.
  2. Seated Marching: Sitting in your chair, alternate lifting each knee up towards your chest as if you are marching in place. If you’d like to alternate moving your arms as well, an armless chair will allow for more movement.  This exercise can help improve cardiovascular health and increase core and leg strength.
  3. Seated Shoulder Press: Hold a light weight in each hand and lift your arms up to shoulder height with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Press your arms up towards the ceiling, straightening your elbows, and then lower them back down to shoulder height. This exercise can help improve upper body strength and posture.

These are just a few seated exercises, but there are many variations and types of seated exercises including chair yoga, seated resistance band exercises, or armchair aerobics.

The benefits of physical activity for seniors

Physical activity offers mental and physical benefits that assist with independence, heart health, and mental acuity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seniors who engage in regular physical activity report more mental clarity, more mental energy, and less stress than those who are sedentary. Even moderate exercise, such as walking or light jogging, provides cardiovascular benefits that strengthen the heart and lungs while decreasing risk factors associated with diabetes, cancer, and stroke.

Additionally, strengthening bones and muscles helps seniors maintain balance, supporting safe, independent living. So get up and get moving – you’ll thank your body (and mind) for it.

Staying motivated 

Exercising can be tricky to stay motivated for – it’s not always easy or enjoyable. But you can use a few tricks to make sure you stick with your routine. One of these is to bring the social or community element into the mix. For example, you could join an exercise class, find friends with similar fitness goals, or form an online community with like-minded individuals. These connections help keep you accountable and provide a great way to make exercising social and fun – resources that can be key when staying motivated.

Finding resources and support for exercise and physical activity

For those wanting to get active and exercise, there are plenty of resources available to help you on your journey. Community centers and senior centers typically have programs that are offered for free or at a minimal cost that range from activities such as walking clubs, yoga classes, low-impact aerobics, and more.

If you prefer to be outdoors, look into local parks and recreation programs for running groups and other outdoor sports. Personal trainers or fitness classes are good options if one-on-one instruction is what you’re seeking.

And if the times have you staying home more frequently now than ever, there are endless online resources offering virtual workouts, helpful diet plans, and apps that motivate you in reaching your goals.

Here are a few specific resources to research:


SilverSneakers is a fitness program designed specifically for seniors. The program offers a variety of exercise classes, including aerobics, strength training, and yoga.

Active Older Adults

Active Older Adults (AOA) is a program offered by the YMCA. Like SilverSneakrs, the program provides a range of exercise classes and access to gyms, pools, and various fitness amenities.

Senior Centers

Senior centers offer a variety of recreational and social activities for seniors. Use the senior center directory to find a local senior center in your area.

Move your body

Now that you know how important exercise is for seniors and have some tips on getting started, it’s time to get up and moving. Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any physical activity, especially if you have a chronic health condition or are not used to exercising.

Once you have the go-ahead, start slowly with easy exercises at home and gradually increase your intensity and frequency as you become more physically fit. Remember to focus on enjoying yourself and staying active so you can live your best life possible.



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