What are some non-strenuous stretches and exercises for retaining mobility for seniors?
I would like to keep my joints healthy with exercises I can do at home.
Mobility stretches and exercises are a crucial part of any fitness program for seniors as they lubricate joints, increase balance, and reduce pain while helping to promote a feeling of independence.
Before beginning any type of exercise, you should warm-up and stretch. Depending on the individual's current health condition and experience, warming up for several minutes can be done by taking a brief but brisk walk or simply walking around the house while holding on to counter space and a chair.
After warming up, gently perform the following stretches. Hold each one for 20 to 30 seconds, or as long as you feel comfortable.
- Standing Quadriceps Stretch (while holding on to a chair)
Once you feel limber and loose, perform 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of the following exercises. Remember to take your time, move slowly throughout the exercise, and stop immediately if you feel discomfort or pain. Keep in mind that if a muscle is "burning" because of the exercise, that is a good thing. It means the muscle is doing its job.
- Lateral Raises: While sitting in a chair, tighten your core and straighten your back. Look straight ahead. Now slowly lift your arms at your sides. Bring them up to shoulder level, pause, and slowly lower them. Repeat.
- Leg Lifts: Again, while sitting in a chair, tighten your core and straighten your back. Slowly lift your left leg up until it is parallel (or as close as you can get it to parallel). Pause, then slowly lower the leg back to the floor. Alternate legs and repeat.
- Chair stands: Begin by sitting in a chair. Have another chair in front of you with the back facing you. Tighten your core and straighten your back. Grab on to the back of the chair and slowly stand up. Balance yourself then slowly sit back down. Repeat.
- Walk the Line: This mobility exercise is a bit more advanced as it requires a great deal of coordination. It can be done next to a counter top or a row of chairs. Standing straight up with a tight core and straight back, you are going to walk in a straight line toe over toe. Imagine a tight rope walker. Slowly, place one foot in front of the other. Pause between steps. Aim to walk 10 to 12 steps up, turn around, and repeat.
Another option that seniors have is water exercises. If you have access to a community pool or pool exercise classes, you can receive the same benefits of a workout while taking it easy on your joints and ligaments. Simply by getting into a pool at waist or chest height and walking, you are helping to improve mobility.
Finally, see our Older Adults Mobility & Strength at Home Workout Pack
As always, talk with a medical professional before beginning any type of exercise program.