Featured Contributor for LIVESTRONG.COM

At-Home Workouts to Improve Balance, Mobility and Strength in Your 60s and Beyond

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SARA LINDBERGCREATED ON JUNE 28, 2019

Without a doubt, regular exercise is good for you at any age. But if you're entering into the golden years of retirement and beyond, staying fit is even more critical, especially if you want to keep doing all the things you enjoy.

When it comes to exercising at home, having a game plan can help you stay motivated and on track to meet your fitness goals. If you're working with a fitness trainer, physical therapist or other exercise specialists, they will likely have a routine for you to follow.

But if you're on your own, designing an exercise program that includes cardiovascular exercise, muscle strengthening and balance training should give you a well-rounded fitness routine. This includes activities such as dancing, tai chi, low-impact sports, walking, weight lifting and more.

Exercise Tips for Older Adults

Take It Slow

Easing into an exercise program is the best way to stay safe and injury free. Certified personal trainer Kate Ligler, wellness manager at MINDBODY, recommends starting with just your body weight and a comfortable range of motion, especially if you're a beginner. "Make sure your body is warm and truly ready for progression before picking up the pace or adding resistance," she says.

Listen to Your Body

If you have an arthritic joint, an old injury that causes discomfort or an ongoing condition, Ligler says to pay attention to times of the day when you feel your best and align exercise accordingly. "Meal timing, medications and weather can all be factors," she explains. Remember, exercising should never be painful or leave you overly sore.

Do a Pulse Assessment During Exercise

To stay safe at all times, National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer Lesley Bell, lead CogFit instructor, personal trainer and brain health coach at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, recommends checking your pulse during exercise to ensure a safe heart rate so you avoid overexertion. Most treadmills and bikes have heart-rate sensors you can use while working out. You can also use a heart-rate monitor or fitness watch with heart-rate readings.

Know Your Health Status

If you have any existing health conditions or you're taking a medication that may affect physical activity, Bell says it's important to know and monitor the signs and symptoms associated with your condition. Take some time to review the symptoms that may indicate a heart problem or stroke that could arise during exercise, and make sure you speak to your doc before starting a new exercise routine.

Seated Resistance Training Workout

When beginning a resistance training program, Bell says it's a good idea to start with exercises in a seated position, then progress to performing the exercises while standing. To add resistance, she recommends using small hand weights or resistance bands.

Perform each exercise for the recommended repetitions. Move to the next exercise until you reach the end. Take a two-minute break and repeat once.

Move 1: Bicep Curl

  1. Grab 2- to 10-pound hand weights.

  2. Start with your arms by your sides, palms facing out.

  3. Curl the weights up to about chest height and hold for two seconds before releasing.

  4. Do 10 repetitions.

Move 2: Leg Extension

  1. Start with your feet flat on the floor.

  2. Extend your right knee and push your toes to the sky.

  3. Squeeze and hold for two seconds, lower, and switch sides.

  4. Do 10 repetitions on each leg.

Move 3: Triceps Extension

  1. Grab 2- to 10-pound hand weights.

  2. Lean forward in your chair, keep your elbows close to the body.

  3. Extend your arms and squeeze the back of your upper arm (triceps) by holding for two seconds.

  4. Release and repeat.

  5. Do 10 repetitions.

Move 4: Lateral Shoulder Raise

  1. Use 2- to 10-pound hand weights.

  2. With your elbows slightly bent, lift your arms out to the side until they are parallel with the floor.

  3. With palms facing the floor, hold for two seconds then return to starting position.

  4. Do 10 repetitions.

Move 5: Toe Raise

  1. Keeping your heels on the ground, lift your toes up to the sky and hold for two seconds.

  2. Release to starting position. You can alternate feet or do both at the same time.

  3. Do 10 repetitions.

Stretching Sequence for Seniors

This stretching sequence from Austin Martinez, director of education for StretchLab, is a great add-on after a cardio workout. If you plan on doing it as a stand-alone activity, warm up (say, with some brisk walking) before moving into the stretches.

Move 1: Lumbar Rotation Stretch

  1. Sit upright with your shoulders back and gently rotate your shoulders to the left.

  2. Come back to center before gently rotating to the right.

 Tip

This is a great stretch to do right when you wake up, especially if you sleep on your back.

Move 2: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Kneel on the floor, or a blanket for more cushion, with one foot forward, flat on the floor. Gently sink down, pushing your hips forward. You can hold a nearby chair for balance.

  2. Make sure to stretch both sides.

Move 3: Chest Stretch

  1. Find an unmovable object, like the wall or the edge of a door frame.

  2. Hold onto the object with one arm, keeping the arm extended and your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.

  3. Gently turn your shoulders and body away from the extended arm and hold for 20 seconds.

  4. Repeat on the other side.

Move 4: Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall.

  2. Hold onto the wall and move one foot back as far as you are comfortable with, making sure your toes are facing forward.

  3. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and then switch sides.

Strength, Balance and Mobility Workout

"It's important to build strength, improve balance, and maintain mobility at any age, but it's especially critical for seniors," says Ligler. She recommends integrating a simple, at-home routine that can be expanded or advanced with basic equipment.

Move 1: Inchworm (Strength/Mobility)

  1. From standing, fold at the hips until your hands reach the floor in front of you.

  2. Walk forward on your hands until you reach plank position, keeping your legs straight.

  3. Return to standing by reversing the motion.

Move 2: Pass Through (Balance/Mobility)

  1. Grasp a stretch rope, band or towel with a wide grip.

  2. With straight arms, pass the rope from your stomach over your head to your lower back.

  3. Slowly walk your hands closer together as mobility increases.

  4. Stand on one leg for a balance challenge while performing the movement.

Move 3: Iron Cross (Strength/Mobility)

  1. Lie on your back and extend your legs to the ceiling with knees bent at 90 degrees.

  2. Stretch your arms wide at your sides ensuring your shoulder blades, spine and palms are all in contact with the floor.

  3. Slowly rotate your knees from side to side, keeping shoulder blades pinned to the floor to challenge your postural muscles.

Move 4: Hip Swing (Balance/Mobility)

  1. Lean against a wall with straight arms and extend one leg out in front of you.

  2. Swing your leg back and forth in front of your body laterally — like a golf swing with your leg.

Move 5: Wall Squat (Strength)

  1. With your back against a wall, slowly slide down as if you were going to sit in a chair.

  2. Find a position that is challenging but holdable for at least 20 seconds (a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees is ideal).

  3. Build up in time slowly.

Floor Work Intervals

If you want to increase your heart rate, burn calories and work on the strength and flexibility in your lower body, this workout from Jim Edwards, certified personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, is for you. The foundation exercises help strengthen the muscles in and around the hips (including the lower back and abs). It can also serve as a warm-up.

Move 1: Bridge to Hip Hike

  1. Lying on your back with knees bent, press your feet into the floor and lift hips off the floor and back to the floor.

  2. Do three sets of 15 reps.

Move 2: Leg Raise

  1. Remaining on your back with knees bent and your towel between your knees, lift your feet off the floor and return to the floor.

  2. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Move 3: Clamshell

  1. Lying on your side with hips and knees bent, lift your top knee up while keeping your feet stacked on top of one another.

  2. Do three sets of 15 reps, flipping to the other side after each set.

Move 4: Back Extension

  1. Lying flat face down, rest your forehead on your hands and lift the arms and head off the floor, making sure the forehead stays in contact with the hands. Be careful not to throw your head back as you lift off the floor.

  2. Return to the floor.

  3. Do three sets of 10 reps.

Move 5: Plank

  1. Lie face down, forearms parallel while making two fists.

  2. Come up to the forearms and feet while maintaining a straight line from head to heel. Be careful not to let your hips sag below your shoulders (backs don't like this).

  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

 Tip

If you need to decrease the intensity of a plank, come up to your knees instead of your feet and hold.

Standing Cardio Set

You can repeat this cardio set two to three times. Make sure to rest for 60 seconds before moving to the next set. During the rest, Edwards says to consider working on stability. "You should never miss an opportunity to improve balance," he says. "And the easiest way is with the stork stand (standing on one foot for up to 30 seconds)."

Move 1: Marching

  1. March in place for 60 seconds.

Move 2: Modified Jumping Jack

  1. Instead of jumping laterally and back, step out and back while raising your arms over your head like a standard jumping jack.

  2. Do 20 repetitions.

Move 3: Get Up

  1. Sitting on a couch or chair, feet slightly wider than your hips, stand up then return to the seated position.

  2. Try to stand up without using your hands and arms

  3. Do 15 repetitions.


Kate Ligler