Best Types of Exercise for Older Adults

Best types of exercises for older adults

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When we get older, our bodies change. Sometimes, things don’t work as well as they once did, and we may suffer with strength, balance and endurance issues. But while old age catches up with us all, exercising can improve our overall physical condition.

By performing some of the exercises we will talk about in this guide, you may be able to improve your physical fitness. What’s more, regular exercise has been proven to have mental health benefits as well as physical ones.

Aerobic/Endurance Exercise

Aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping and has in fact been shown to improve mortality among older adults. There are many types of aerobic exercise, but anything that falls into this category must consistently engage the heart, lungs and muscles. From this, we can tell that aerobic exercise could be hugely beneficial in many health areas.

When older adults take part in regular aerobic exercise they lower their risk of certain conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various types of cancer. These exercises have also been shown to improve mood and ensure a better night’s rest. What’s more, if you struggle with your weight, combining aerobic workouts with a healthy diet could help you to shift those pounds.

Seniors should be aiming to increase their hours of activity each week. It is recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. If you prefer, you could increase the intensity and perform 75 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.

Brisk Walking/Hiking

Types of exercises for older adults - hiking

Walking is recognized by most of us as a very effective, all-round workout. For seniors, this has a range of benefits. Some seniors might worry that they won’t be able to participate in walking due to mobility problems but you can still take part in this exercise using mobility aids. Whether you use a cane, a rollator, or something else, this shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying regular walking.

What’s great about brisk walking is that it provides you with an aerobic workout without the need to do something quite as intense as jogging, for example. Moreover, for older adults with stiff or painful joints, brisk walking will put less pressure on them. This might even help to improve your mobility as studies have shown that those taking part in regular activities like brisk walking may be up to 28% less likely to struggle with age-related disability.

Even more interesting, research has proven that brisk walking isn’t just good for your physical health but for your mental health too. Over the course of a year, participants showed an increase in blood flow to the brain which also demonstrated improvements in memory loss!

As we mentioned earlier, doing aerobic exercise like brisk walking or hiking could prevent premature death. In fact, studies have shown that older adults who do not regularly exercise could be more at risk with around 3.2 million deaths each year as a result of inactivity. Further research has shown that older adults who engage in walking on a daily basis might have around 45 less sick days than those who do not.


For older adults that have problems with arthritis, the very motion of pedaling a bike can encourage the body to produce more lubricating fluid for the joints.

The wonderful thing about cycling is that there are so many options. While seniors might believe that they are limited to a traditional bicycle, this is certainly not the case.

  • Tricycles have an additional wheel which allows for greater stability when riding. These are ideal for seniors who may find it difficult to balance on a traditional cycle.
  • Step-thru bike frames do not have a cross bar, so you don’t need to step over anything in order to mount the seat. This makes it much safer for seniors to get on and off their bicycles.
  • E-bikes are electronically powered, to a point, so it’s a lot easier to move the bike. This is perfect if your strength and stamina aren’t what they used to be. However, you can still use the bike as a regular bike so, once your strength improves, you can mix it up a little.
  • Handcycle bikes are powered by pedaling with the hands instead of the feet. If you don’t have a lot of strength in your legs, this might be a good option for you. Most of these bikes still have traditional foot pedals but also give you the choice to use your upper body as well.

There are a lot of benefits to cycling. For older adults that have problems with arthritis, the very motion of pedaling a bike can encourage the body to produce more lubricating fluid for the joints. While this is certainly not a cure for arthritis, as there isn’t one, it can help to alleviate symptoms.

Practicing regular cycling might also improve your balance. While there isn’t a huge pile of evidence, one study showed slight improvements in balance in older women who took part in regular cycling for just an hour a week over the course of 12 months.

Cycling is also brilliant for your state of mind. Getting out into nature and the fresh air has very positive effects on your mental health. What’s more, this can be done as a social activity which is imperative in reducing loneliness in older adults. Most older adults find that cycling is a more fun way to work out and so are more likely to engage in it.

With all of that in mind, there has been research to show that people over the age of 65 are more likely to experience injuries when cycling so it pays to be careful and only do what you’re physically able to.


Swimming is an excellent, low-impact exercise that is gentle on the joints.

Swimming is an excellent, low-impact exercise that can benefit people of all ages. But for older adults, it is particularly effective since it is very gentle on the joints. However, it will still work out the bones and muscles as well as giving you a cardio workout, so it’s a great all-rounder.

As we have mentioned, swimming is great for anybody and as we reach old age, regular swimming could lower the risk of death by around 28%. Another issue that many older adults face is the risk of falls but there is evidence to suggest that physical activity could reduce this risk. Even more interesting is that research has shown that swimming is one of the most effective in this respect.

Swimming has also been shown to benefit mental health. In fact, it’s believed that those suffering with fibromyalgia may benefit from swimming to reduce anxiety associated with the condition. For seniors that struggle with loneliness, swimming can be turned into a social activity that has been proven to improve socialization.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics is perfect for older adults as it allows a full body and cardio workout without putting any strain on the joints.

Another water-based activity, water aerobics is perfect for older adults as it allows a full body and cardio workout without putting any strain on the joints. Studies have shown that water aerobics, sometimes called aqua aerobics, could go a long way in improving strength and balance when walking. 

This type of activity is also ideal for improving flexibility which is something that naturally declines with age. There are various different types of workout you can do in the water, including flutter kicking, aqua jogging, arm curls and pushups, among others. All of these things are just as effective as doing the same out of the water with weights since the pressure of the water creates resistance, eliminating the need to use weights.


Types of exercises for older adults - running

Going for a run or a jog can be a very uplifting activity and many people swear by the high they get from doing this. But this isn’t just a workout for younger people; seniors can benefit from running as well.

Research has shown us that seniors who run as a form of exercise improve their walking skills even more than seniors that walk as a form of exercise. Of course, it’s worth noting that running is more high-impact so this might not be suitable for seniors who suffer with joint problems.

As a cardiovascular workout, running is extremely efficient and really gets the blood pumping. As a result of this, you will benefit from lower blood pressure, fewer risks of conditions like heart disease, and you’ll get a better night’s sleep.

What’s more, it has been demonstrated that running can slow the aging process and keep you young. Amazingly, scientific research has shown that older adults who regularly run could walk just as well as someone in their 20s!


Types of exercises for older adults - dancing

Dancing is an amazing activity for seniors as it’s not only beneficial physically but it makes you feel good and allows you to socialize. 

More than this, learning dance routines requires some serious cognitive input. You’ll need to remember moves and sequences, which is great for keeping your mind sharp.

Physically speaking, there are various types of dancing you can do, depending on your abilities. For those who want to take it a little slower, something like ballroom will get you moving without putting your body under too much duress. On the other hand, seniors who want something a little more demanding might choose Zumba.

Zumba is a blend of Latin-inspired dance and cardio workouts so it’s brilliant for keeping your heart healthy. While there are a lot of fast-paced Zumba classes, the workout is relatively low impact so is ideal for older adults.

Dancing in general will work out the bones, muscles, and joints, raising your level of physical fitness. Regardless of type, dancing has been shown to improve strength and balance in older adults.


Types of exercises for older adults - tennis

If you like a little healthy competition then you may find that tennis is a good choice of exercise. Playing with other people is always an excellent way to keep your social life active while looking after your health.

One of the main benefits for seniors where tennis is concerned is that this is a great cardio workout. There has been evidence to suggest that you are up to 59% less likely to develop heart disease when regularly taking part in activities like tennis.

Physical fitness in older adults who play tennis is markedly better than others in the same age bracket who live a more sedentary lifestyle. Tennis is a high-intensity sport that has been shown to improve bones and muscles, particularly in older adults. As a result of this, seniors may find that their core strength improves and their balance in the lower body is better.


Older adults who take part in gardening will see a range of health benefits.

Gardening might not be what one would call a traditional exercise but there is a degree of physical activity involved. What you are doing will vary in intensity but in any case, you’ll be kept moving and that’s always a good thing.

Older adults who take part in gardening will see a range of health benefits. For example, your blood pressure will be lower because of the increase in activity and just 30 minutes of gardening a day could make a significant difference.

What’s more, gardening exposes you to vitamin D from the sun which is known to improve bone strength. And since you’ll likely be enjoying what you’re doing, gardening will feel less like a chore to stay fit but will be something you enjoy.

There is evidence to suggest that gardening can also boost your mood and improve mental health. One study showed that gardening reduces stress levels even better than something like reading. Moreover, the very act of being around nature is known to have a therapeutic effect.

Balance Exercise

There are a lot of reasons that we begin to lose balance as we age. Things like sensory loss, problems with muscles and bones, and a decrease in ability to send motor commands can all affect our balance in later life.

Taking part in regular balance exercises means that older adults may be less likely to experience falls, which is a common problem as we age. It’s a good idea to start working on your balance as soon as possible and there are a variety of classes out there that are tailored to seniors.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is a low impact workout that’s great for older adults

Tai chi is actually a type of martial art. When you hear that phrase, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was an intense workout, but in fact, tai chi is a low impact workout that’s great for older adults. But while it is easy for almost anyone to do, there are a lot of health benefits. You see, tai chi works on cardio health, strength and flexibility.

If you are an older adult that has a pre-existing condition which makes it difficult to exercise, research has shown that tai chi might be beneficial. It is so low impact that you’ll be able to reap the health benefits without affecting any current conditions.

Tai chi improves endurance and balance, and with these newfound physical abilities, many seniors have reported that they lose a lot of their fear of falling. It is demonstrated, through research, that older adults who take part in tai chi might be as much as 50% less likely to experience a fall.

Above all else, tai chi is a relaxing form of exercise that many people do as a form of moving meditation. It can reduce stress and improve your mental wellbeing. These effects also have a physical impact making it easier to get a good night’s rest and improving heart health.


Yoga is exercise option for senior users

Yoga is an all-round exercise that can benefit you in several ways. Just like tai chi, this is a low impact workout that almost anyone can do. The great thing about it is that there are varying degrees of difficulty and intensity. In all cases, yoga may promote healthy aging.

Vinyasa yoga is a slightly more intense version of the practice which involves a constant flow of movement. These movements are matched with your breathing and this is a great form of yoga if you’re looking to boost your cardio health.

Yin yoga and restorative yoga are much less intense and involve holding poses for longer and moving more slowly. For many of these sessions, you’ll be either sitting or lying down, so these are perfect for seniors whose mobility isn’t as good.

Hatha yoga is a general term for the most common yoga routines. It combines flowing movements with still poses and breathing. There are many benefits to hatha yoga, including improved cardiovascular health, strengthening muscles and bones, improving flexibility and of course, improving your balance.

A lot of yoga poses for balance require you to stand on one leg and hold the pose for some time. This, coupled with the improvement in strength could help to reduce the risk of falling.

Strength Exercise

Day-to-day tasks like carrying groceries and doing things around the house can become more difficult as we lose strength later in life. However, by performing regular strength training, you will increase muscle strength and find that doing these things becomes easier.

But strength training has a whole world of other benefits, including stimulating bone growth and improving blood flow.

It is recommended that we take part in some sort of strength enhancing exercise at least two days a week. When doing this, you’ll notice improvements not only in your physical health but in your mood and overall wellbeing.

Resistance Bands

Types of exercises for older adults - resistance bands

If you are totally new to working out then resistance bands are a good place to start, as they’re very beginner-friendly. These bands are made from a rubber or latex material and look similar to a giant elastic band.

You use them in various ways to improve strength and work out the muscles. You can do things like biceps curls and leg presses among many others, and it’s incredibly affordable to get started. As well as improving your strength, resistance bands may also help to develop improved flexibility.

Another great advantage to resistance band training for seniors is that this is a low impact exercise. For those that have stiff or painful joints, the workout won’t put added pressure on these areas.

Some people would opt for dumbbells, but these can be difficult to lift. If you find that you don’t have the strength to use dumbbells, then resistance bands are a viable and easier to use alternative. You can always work your way up to dumbbell training as your strength improves.

Dumbbell Strength Training

Dumbbell strength training can improve the strength of your muscles and bones

By performing regular dumbbell training, you will improve the strength of your muscles and bones. As a direct result of this, you will be more steady on your feet and less likely to fall. Dumbbell training is known to improve metabolic fitness, increase bone density and contribute to weight loss. All of this can be achieved in just a couple of sessions each week.

Dumbbells come in various weights, so it’s important to choose something that works for you. Never try to lift weights that are too heavy as this could result in a strain or injury.

You can perform repetitions of exercises such as chest presses, deadlifts, squats and rowing, so this is a very versatile option for people who want something that’ll keep them interested.

Body Weight Exercises

Body weight exercises

The wonderful thing about doing body weight exercises is that you don’t need to buy any special equipment. They’re easy to do at home when you get a few minutes spare and have a wide range of benefits where improving strength is concerned.

There are lots of things you can do to workout using your own body weight, including arm curls, sit ups, and pushups.

However, some of these might put a little too much pressure on painful joints, and many seniors find it easier if they can workout while seated. The good news is that there are lots of chair exercises you can do that still have a world of health benefits.

For example, seated chest stretches and twists are ideal for seniors whose mobility isn’t what it used to be. For the lower body, things like ankle stretching and hip marching while seated are very effective.

You can even use a stable chair for balance support when performing standing exercises like leg raises and mini squats.

Flexibility Exercise

Have you noticed that, as you have gotten older, things like bending down or looking behind yourself have become more difficult? If you have, you’re not alone and this decrease in flexibility is something that many of us experience.

However, through regular stretching, we can regain some of that lost flexibility making certain tasks much easier to accomplish. Things like tying your shoelaces will suddenly become a lot easier.

But flexibility exercises can also have a lot of other benefits, including improving your strength and balance, so it’s essential to include them in your workout routine.


With a wide range of poses, yoga is one of the best exercises for improving flexibility.

We have already discussed how yoga can be beneficial where improving balance is concerned but with a wide range of poses, this is one of the best exercises for improving flexibility.

The great thing about yoga is that you can choose a session that matches your physical ability. You’ll hold poses for a period of time and this will improve flexibility in the joints, muscles and tendons.

A lot of seniors may find it difficult to perform yoga while standing, but it is also possible to take part in chair yoga. This is perfect if you struggle with joint conditions, as less strain will be put on the joints, but you’ll still get all of the health benefits. Some examples of poses you can do while seated include seated cat/cow, seated overhead stretch and a variety of seated twists.

Not only will yoga improve your physical health, but it has a wide range of mental benefits. If you like the idea of combining exercise and spirituality then something like kundalini yoga might be right up your street.


Pilates is a low impact workout that targets several areas and improves flexibility as well as increasing strength, stamina and balance.

One of the reasons that pilates is such a good option for older adults is that this is a low impact workout. It targets several areas, including improving flexibility as well as increasing strength, stamina and balance. If you have recently undergone surgery, such as a hip replacement, pilates could be a good form of exercising during your rehabilitation. 

An area that pilates closely focuses on is alignment. As you work on this, you will notice vast improvements in your posture. Not only will this help to eliminate things like back and neck pain, but you may also be at a lower risk of falls due to improved balance. 

Since pilates is perfect for improving flexibility, there are other things that come along with this. Better flexibility means less muscle tension, and as a direct result of this, you’ll improve your blood flow, so you’ll end up feeling much less stiff.

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