Over 60? Here Are 7 of the Best Exercises You Should Be Doing

If you’re over 60, regular exercise is one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Not only does it slash the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes, but it also prevents fatal injuries, while keeping you feeling confident and capable. 

Regular exercise will help you do more of what you love. 

That could include spending time with family and enjoying your hobbies without feeling limited by your body as well.

For many seniors, exercise sounds difficult. 

This is why exercise for seniors is designed to maintain function without getting exhausted. 

Even light activity counts in your workout plan. 

So all you need to do is take the first step and you’ll quickly build an exercise routine you can maintain. 

There are many exercises for over 60-year-olds, but let’s start with the benefits. 

The Health Benefits of Exercise in Older Adults

As we age, we sadly lose muscle and bone mass. 

Seniors who lead an active, healthy lifestyle live longer, have fewer diseases and are more functional. 

In contrast, being sedentary increases the risk of osteoporosis, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, and premature death. 

If you have a chronic condition here are some benefits of exercise to look forward to. 

Greater independence for seniors

Older adults who do balance exercises and include weight training in their program are less likely to depend on others (1). 

Independence in old age is defined as being able to perform activities of daily living without help. 

These include walking, eating, bathing, getting out of bed, or using the toilet according to Harvard Medical School (2). 

When you strength train and work on balance, you not only live longer but have happier, more independent years into old age.

Better balance for older adults

Exercise is one of the best ways to lower heart disease risk. 

Regular aerobic activity also helps promote healthy brain aging, improving memory and attention span (6). 

Exercise can also prevent severe muscle loss. 

Diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis are all prevented when you include exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Prevent life-altering chronic diseases

Exercise is one of the best ways to lower heart disease risk. 

Regular aerobic activity also helps promote healthy brain aging, improving memory and attention span. 

Exercise can also prevent severe muscle loss. 

Diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis are all prevented when you include exercise in your healthy lifestyle.

The 7 Best Exercises for Older Adults

Best exercises for seniors

So what types of exercise should you perform if you’re over 60? 

A sound exercise program for seniors should help you do everyday activities better. 

That includes grocery shopping, walking up a flight of stairs, crossing the street, babysitting, gardening, and anything else you need to do with less stress. 

Whether you’re doing body weight workouts or resistance training, leading an active lifestyle will help you get there. 

Here are the best exercises for over 60-year-olds.

1. Step-Up

The step-up isn’t as simple as it sounds. Step-ups involve coordination, leg strength, core stability, and balance. 

You need core stability and thigh muscle strength to propel yourself upwards and forwards. 

The muscles involved in the step-up include the calves, hip flexors, tibialis anterior (front of the lower leg), quadriceps, abdominals, lower back muscles, and glutes. 

An added bonus of this exercise is its ability to reduce lower back pain, by improving your core strength. 

Here is how you perform this exercise:

  • Find a box to step up on to. Depending on your skill level, choose something that is not too challenging, but harder than stepping onto one stair
  • Start with your feet together, and then lift your right foot up onto the platform. Make sure you are stable in this position before moving onto the next step
  • Step up onto the platform and bring both feet together
  • Step back down so that your left foot moves back to the floor, then bring your right foot back down to the ground
  • Repeat this for the other side

We recommend performing five sets of six reps, so you can maintain quality reps. 

Count one second on the way up, and one second on the way down. 

If you are more advanced, use dumbbells and free weights to add resistance, or raise the height of the box to up the intensity. 

2. Lunge

Lunges help you strength train by strengthening the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. 

If you like hiking or playing sports like bocce, golf, or tennis, this is a great exercise to strengthen your legs and improve your performance even in old age. 

Lunges also help to strengthen the muscles you need to sit down and stand up, so you can do that with less stress on your joints.

How to perform:

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart on a flat surface
  • Take a big step forward so you’re in a split-stance
  • Drop your back knee to the ground, while keeping your back straight and eyes level. You can hold your arms out to the side for extra balance, or put your hands on your hip
  • Push the ground away from you in order to get back up into your split stance

Perform three pyramid sets with this exercise. Start with a set of twelve repetitions, then ten, then finish with eight. 

This exercise improves muscle strength and endurance at the same time. Add dumbbells for added resistance.

3. Squats

Squatting is arguably the single best exercise for maintaining strength and warding off injuries. 

Since it targets so many muscle groups, it also stimulates the cardiovascular system. 

Although it’s challenging, the good news is that it’s in nearly every personal trainer’s exercise toolkit for a reason. 

It’s important to perform this exercise with proper form so make sure to follow these instructions.

How to perform:

  • Bring your feet to a shoulder-width distance
  • Outstretch your hands out in front of you, level with the ground
  • Making sure your feet stay flat on the ground, lower your hips as low as you can, bending simultaneously at the hips and knees
  • Return to the starting position

To master this exercise, start with three sets of ten repetitions, taking plenty of time to go both down and up. 

Depending on your mobility, you may have to adjust your foot width. 

If you don’t have a personal trainer, you can view videos online about maintaining good form for this exercise. 

4. Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row is one of the best ways to strengthen your lower back, abs, hamstrings, glutes, upper back, and arms. 

It also can help improve spine mobility as well in the thoracic spine. 

This exercise does require weights and plenty of hip mobility. 

The bent-over row is a natural way to mimic many everyday activities that require bending down.

How to perform the bent-over row:

  • Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart
  • With two light dumbbells in each hand, slowly bend forward at the hip
  • Pull your elbows back behind you in order to lift the weight up towards your chest
  • Keep your back nice and straight as you lift the weight up and down

This exercise can be performed with three sets of ten repetitions or pyramid sets with twelve, ten, and eight reps. 

5. Leg Press

The leg press is an excellent addition to your exercise regimen. 

Typically, more weight can be used on a leg press than with a squat, making it the single best exercise for raw leg strength. 

You will improve your ability to stand up from chairs or walk up a flight of stairs by using a leg press because of how much stronger your quads will become. 

How to perform:

  • Adjust the weight on the leg press machine to the desired level
  • Place your feet shoulder width apart or wider on the machine platform
  • Most leg press machines have a knob you must turn to unlock the platform in order to press it. Make sure to unlock it before performing the lift and lock it again in place after the final rep
  • Slowly lower the weight down until you feel discomfort and push the weight back up
  • Perform three sets of ten to maximize muscle strength.

6. Chest Press

The chest press is a great exercise for beginners to strengthen their chest muscles. 

The chest press strengthens your pectoralis muscles, which are some of the biggest muscles in your upper body. 

They also strengthen the anterior deltoids, the front part of your shoulder muscles. 

Since these muscles are so big, they also consume plenty of oxygen and therefore can improve heart health when you exercise them.

The chest press is relatively easy to perform.

Here’s how:

  • Adjust the chest press machine to the desired position
  • Select weight/resistance
  • Place hands firmly on the handle, and straighten your back against the back rest
  • Push the handles forward without compromising your posture and keeping shoulder blades engaged.

Perform three sets of ten repetitions in a controlled motion to improve chest strength and endurance.

7. Plank

A plank is an effective core exercise for seniors. This static move helps you build core strength and stability without straining the back.

While the plank is primarily an abs and core workout, it also targets your shoulders, glutes, and hips.

It’s a whole-body workout in just 30 seconds.

To perform a plank:

  • Start by kneeling on a mat. Place your forearms on the mat and keep a 90-degree bend in your elbows.
  • Extend your legs fully to the back of your body.
  • Prop your body and support your body with your forearms and toes. Keep your back and spine in a straight line.
  • Hold for 30-45 seconds and return to the starting position.

8. Don’t Forget Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to strengthen your heart. 

A well-rounded exercise program should include both weight training and aerobic activity to maximize heart health. 

Some people may think of cardiovascular exercise as grueling sessions on a treadmill or elliptical, but cardio can be a light activity or an intense activity that lowers stress. 

Even a walking workout counts. 

One added benefit of cardio is better sleep, which reduces the risk of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Cardio can be a low-impact form of exercise, as well as high-impact. High-impact exercises are better for strengthening the joints but aren’t for everyone. 

Walking is a natural way to improve heart and brain health. 

The Centers For Disease Control’s physical activity guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of brisk walking each week for older adults or 75 minutes each week of more vigorous activity such as jogging (7).

Other forms of cardio include water aerobics, using cardio machines, hiking, biking, climbing the stairs, and walking up hills. 

As long as you’re on your feet and getting your heart rate up, you can enjoy the benefits of aerobic activity in as little as thirty minutes a day, five times a week.

Conclusion

Physical activity comes in many forms. When you’re choosing how to train as an older adult, make sure to include a healthy mix of balance exercises, strength exercises, and cardiovascular exercises. 

The benefits include less lower back pain and joint pain, stronger hips and knees, better coordination and balance, an easier time with everyday activities, and better overall health. Also, check out 10 Best Resistance Band Workouts You Can Do at Home

References:

  1. Copeland, Jennifer L, et al. “Sedentary Time in Older Adults: a Critical Review of Measurement, Associations with Health, and Interventions.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, 1 Nov. 2017, bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/21/1539.
  2. Howard E. LeWine, MD. “Walking, Other Exercise Helps Seniors Stay Mobile, Independent.” Harvard Health, 13 Oct. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/walking-exercise-helps-seniors-stay-mobile-independent-201405287173.
  3. CDC. “Cost of Older Adult Falls.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 July 2020, www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/data/fallcost.html.
  4. WHO. “Falls.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/falls.
  5. El-Khoury, Fabienne, et al. “The Effect of Fall Prevention Exercise Programmes on Fall Induced Injuries in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.” The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 29 Oct. 2013, www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6234.
  6. Focht, Jennifer. “Exercise Helps Older People Stay Sharp and Remember More.” National Center for Health Research, 16 Feb. 2018, www.center4research.org/exercise-older-people/.
  7. CDC. “How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2021, www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm.

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