Low-Impact Workouts for Seniors

Here are eight low-impact workouts that could benefit anyone.

Water aerobics class for a low-impact workout.

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Aging is a beautiful thing and while some results of aging are obvious, others are silent. Unfortunately, it’s usually the silent changes that tend to be the most dangerous.

In a recent study, Harvard scientists analyzed 334 years of data and revealed five habits that, if adopted even during middle age, boosted a woman’s lifespan by 14 years and a man’s lifespan by 12. One of those factors? Regular exercise for 30 minutes or more a day.

It can be difficult at any age to find exercises that not only keep you in shape but that you enjoy and will not cause additional stress on your body.

Low-impact exercises are great options—especially for older adults—as these workouts are gentler on your joints and can still be low-, moderate-, or high-intensity. The intensity level of your workout includes two factors: how hard the exercise is and how hard your heart is pumping during it.

For example, with a higher level of intensity, you’re tackling a more challenging activity and will most likely have a higher heart rate than other exercises. So, even with a low-impact exercise regime, you’re still getting all of the benefits of a hard-hitting workout.

Before starting any exercise, however, talk with your healthcare provider to make sure you’re doing what’s best for you and your body. While exercising is important, you’ll want to make sure you understand which exercises are recommended for you and which are not, and your healthcare provider can provide these details for you.

As with any exercise, you’ll want to do your best to avoid overexerting yourself. Overexertion is caused when you’re pushing yourself too much, which includes doing strenuous workouts.

There are many signs of overexertion that you’ll want to keep an eye out for:

  • Dizziness, soreness, or overheating
  • Excess sweating
  • High pulse rate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fluttering heart
  • Chest pain

Stop exercising if you’re in pain or have immense discomfort. If you’re experiencing a fluttering heart or chest pain, contact 911 immediately for assistance.

Now that you’re ready to tackle your workout, take time to learn different low-impact exercises. If you aren’t sure what exercises classify as low impact, try these eight exercises to help you get in shape and live a happier, longer life.

1. Cat-camel stretches

This stretch is done on your hands and knees (although if you can’t get onto your knees, it’s possible to do it sitting), and because of that it helps strengthen your arm and leg muscles. It also improves your spine mobility.

Start the exercise by kneeling and putting your hands directly underneath your shoulders with arms stretched out and your knees directly underneath your hips. Keep your back straight.

Then, round your back and pull your bum under, causing your spine to curve. Hold that for ten seconds, then slowly release. Watch this video demo of cat-camel stretches that are good for your back.

2. Water aerobics

Nothing is gentler on your joints than taking a water aerobics class. It’s a great workout that won’t jostle you around. It can be a fun, invigorating activity to maintain cardiovascular endurance and tone muscles.

3. One-foot balance

Raise your leg out in front of you and stand on one foot for 30 seconds, then switch to the other foot. You can do this for a few rotations in a two-minute tooth-brushing session.

Make sure you hold onto something at first if your balance feels unsteady. In time, balancing will become easier.

4. Squats and reaching

With your feet hip distance apart, put your arms out in front of you. Squat down as if you are going to sit (but make sure your knees don’t bend past your toes).

As you squat, reach the right hand toward the left and rotate your body a little to the left. Then straighten back up and do the same to the other side. This strengthens your legs and core.

5. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that can be a gentle, balancing exercise. There are various levels of tai chi to challenge yourself. It is a wonderful exercise to do both indoors and outdoors. If you aren’t sure where to start, start with this list of nine tai chi videos for beginners.

6. Lunges

With your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart, step forward on one leg. As you do so, bend both your knees until the front thigh is parallel to the floor and the lower leg is bent 90 degrees. Walk around the room doing this, so you can get more reps in.

7. Stairs

You can use any stairs or a low chair to do this. Step up on the first stair with one leg. Lift the other leg off the floor, but don’t step down with it yet. Hold the position with the floating leg for a few counts, then put it back down and step down with the other leg. Continue to do this, switching off both feet.

8. Take a daily walk

Slow down and take a 30-minute walk around the block. It’s a little thing that makes an important difference. Grab a friend or your spouse and take a stroll through the neighborhood.

There’s no reason to let aging or painful joints slow you down. Even these simple, low-impact workouts can make a big difference. 


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