Five Work-Outs for Senior Citizens

Top Fives Exercises for Senior Citizens

The phrase “use it or lose it” is especially true of muscles and aerobic capacity as people age. While teenagers might be able to empty out the refrigerator in a single sitting and not gain an ounce or spend 24 hours straight sitting on a sofa playing video games and then stand up without a single twinge of pain in their knees or lower backs, this is not the case for most people over a certain age. Although many seniors run marathons, do multi-day backpacking or canoe trips, or even compete in the Senior Olympics, many seniors need exercise programs which maintain aerobic capacity and muscle mass while minimizing stress on joints, such as the five work-outs for senior citizens discussed below.

  • Water Exercises
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Resistance Training
  • Snowshoeing or Nordic Skiing

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Water Exercises

Exercising in water is a way to get a high-quality workout while minimizing stress on joints. Swimming and aqua-aerobics are both high-quality non-impact forms of cardiovascular activity. One can also do resistance exercises in a pool to build strength. Water walking, using water shoes for traction, especially when combined with webbed gloves, provides a full-body workout with minimal stress on joints. If one prefers to be on top of rather than in the water, canoeing and kayaking are good upper body cardiovascular exercises.


Walking is one of the most convenient low-impact exercises. All it requires is a sturdy pair of walking shoes. One can walk around one’s own neighborhood, explore parks and scenic areas, or just do circuits indoors in shopping malls in bad weather. Whether one walks outdoors, in malls, or just on a treadmill at home, walking will strengthen one’s heart, lungs, and legs. For a more intense workout, one can use incline controls on a treadmill or hilly terrain.


Because cycling is a non-weight-bearing exercise, it works well for seniors who have joint issues, are obese, or who just enjoy exploring the outdoors. For seniors with balance issues, recumbent and upright tricycles are stable and can even carry groceries. The Arthritis Foundation recommends indoor stationary cycling for people with arthritis or balance problems. A stationary cycle in one’s own home is safe and convenient and allows one to work out while reading, listening to music, chatting on the phone, or watching television.

Resistance Training

The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends resistance training as a key to minimizing age-related muscle loss. While some seniors enjoy going to health clubs or classes, resistance training can be as simple, safe, and convenient as using a few light dumbbells or resistance bands in one’s own home while sitting in a chair.

Snowshoeing or Nordic Skiing

Winter does not mean an end to outdoor exercise for seniors. Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing are both outstanding low-impact full-body exercises that can be done by people of any age or fitness level. While lessons are recommended for people new to Nordic skiing, snowshoeing takes no special skills, although poles are recommended for balance as well as enhancing the value of the exercise for one’s upper body.

Conclusion: Sensible Precautions

Before starting any exercise program, especially if one is over 55, obese, previously sedentary, or has medical issues, one should consult one’s healthcare provider. A physical therapist or certified personal trainer can help design an exercise program appropriate to one’s age and current fitness level.