Five Simple, Low Impact Exercises for Seniors

As we age, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize our health, reduce stress, keep our bones strong and maintain an active lifestyle. Regular exercise is a key component of healthy aging, helping to keep our bodies muscular, flexible and capable at every age.

However, not all exercises need to be high-intensity or strenuous to get the job done. In fact, there are plenty of low-impact, simple exercises that we recommend older adults set aside time for every day as they work to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

In this blog post, we’ll explore five gentle exercises that are both effective and accessible, designed to help you stay active, mobile and independent at any age.

The best low impact exercises for seniors

1. Seated leg lifts

One of the simplest yet most effective exercises for seniors is seated leg lifts. This exercise helps improve lower body strength and flexibility, which is essential for daily activities like walking and getting up from a chair. 

How to properly do a seated leg lift:

  • Sit on a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight
  • Slowly lift one leg straight out in front of you, keeping it parallel to the floor
  • Hold for a few seconds (10 seconds is recommended, if possible), then lower your leg back down slowly, maintaining control of your leg muscles as you lower
  • Repeat with the other leg
  • Alternate legs, aiming for 10-15 lifts on each side

2. Standing wall push-ups

Upper body strength is crucial for remaining independent and performing daily tasks like opening doors, carrying groceries or picking up a young grandchild. Wall push-ups are a safe and effective way to tone your arm muscles. 

Step-by-step guide to modifying traditional push-ups to make them lower impact:

  • Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-width apart
  • Place your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height
  • Lean forward slightly, keeping your body in a straight line
  • Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the wall, maintaining a flat back 
  • Push back to the starting position
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions

3. Gentle neck stretches

While it may not seem like an exercise, stretching can work wonders for loosening muscles and improving flexibility. And with neck pain and stiffness common in older age, these stretches will help you care for your neck. Gentle neck stretches can help relieve tension and reduce discomfort at any age. 

How to gently stretch your neck: 

  • Sit or stand with your back straight (if you have trouble maintaining a flat back, try sitting against a wall or firm chair)
  • Slowly tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Perform 2-3 stretches on each side to loosen the muscles

4. Chair squats

Strengthening your leg muscles can enhance balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls. Chair squats are a practical way to work your legs without needing any special equipment. 

Follow these steps to strengthen your legs with chair squats: 

  • Stand in front of a sturdy chair with your feet hip-width apart
  • Lower yourself toward the chair as if you were about to sit down
  • Hover just above the chair for a moment, then stand back up
  • Keep your chest up and your knees aligned with your toes
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions

5. Arm circles

Shoulder mobility is essential for everyday activities, such as reaching for items on high shelves or getting dressed in the morning. Arm circles are an excellent exercise to improve shoulder flexibility and strength at the same time.

How to do arm circles:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height
  • Begin making small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles
  • After 10-15 seconds, switch to reverse circles to work the other side of the muscle
  • Repeat for 2-3 sets

Tips for low impact exercise if you use a wheelchair or walker

Senior in wheelchair exercising with exercising band during exercise class.

Exercise remains not only possible but also incredibly beneficial for seniors who use a walker or wheelchair. Mobility aids should never be seen as barriers to staying active. There is a wide range of seated exercises and adapted workouts designed specifically for individuals with limited mobility. 

From seated yoga and chair aerobics to resistance band exercises and wheelchair-friendly sports, there are numerous options to help you build strength, improve flexibility, boost your mood and enhance overall well-being. The key is finding exercises that suit your individual needs and abilities, allowing you to continue enjoying the physical and mental health benefits of staying active, no matter your mobility level. 

Need some tips on how to stay active in a wheelchair or with a walker? Check out our blog post on this exact topic.

Are you ready to try these five simple, yet effective low impact exercises for seniors?

Staying active and prioritizing your health is a gift you can give yourself at any age – and that certainly goes for your golden years as well. These five simple and low-impact exercises can help you maintain your mobility, strength and overall well-being without putting excessive strain on your body. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine, and listen to your body.

Remember that progress happens at your own pace. Enjoy the benefits of a healthier, more active lifestyle today.

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Happy female physiotherapist giving leg massage to active senior woman in sports center.
Happy female physiotherapist giving leg massage to active senior woman in sports center.

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