If you have an older relative, they may have difficulty getting out and about to exercise, but this does not mean they cannot exercise at all. There are many types of exercises they can do at the home, and here are some that you may want to try out to increase their strength and improve flexibility.
Regular Exercise Prevents Falls
Falls become more common as you get older. Although most falls don’t lead to serious injury, they can reduce your independence and leave you feeling anxious or distressed. Regular exercise is a good way to reduce the risk of falling and keep you living independently for longer.
Though physical fitness is beneficial at any age, the benefits for older adults are more notable. As you age, your muscle strength and balance begin to decline, which can lead to more falls in and out of the home. Exercises that are designed to increase muscle strength and flexibility can improve balance, posture, and coordination.
Regular exercise also promotes independence. Maintaining an active lifestyle helps improve all the activities you need to remain self-reliant such as walking, cooking, bathing, or dressing. It may seem counter-intuitive, but exercising regularly also increases energy levels.
Some exercises don’t even require standing, and this may be more suitable for your relative. Start by finding a stable chair at the right height so they can rest their feet flat on the floor. One with no armrests is also best. Some of the exercises you could try include:
- Stretching the neck – look ahead and hold your right shoulder with your left hand. Tilt your head to the left and hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side, and do this three times. This can help to loosen muscles that have become tight.
- Twisting the chest – sit upright, cross your arms and reach for your shoulders. Turn your body to the left as far as it can go, and hold for five seconds. Repeat this in the other direction, and aim for five of each.
- Stretching ankles – hold the side of the chair and straighten your right leg and hold your foot off the floor. Point your toes away and then back, and repeat five times, doing two sets on each foot. This can help to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of blood clots.
- Lifting arms – sit with your arms at your sides with your palms forwards, and lift your arms out to the sides then up as far as possible, keeping them straight and breathing out at the same time. Then lower the arms, breathing in as you do so. This is a good exercise for building shoulder strength.
These exercises focus on increasing strength and should make up part of your routine:
- Move from sitting to standing – this exercise involves sitting on the edge of a chair and standing up slowly using only the legs, looking forwards all the time. Sit down slowly again, and repeat five times.
- Press up against the wall – stand arm length from the wall with your hands flat against it and your fingers pointing up. Bend your arms slowly, keeping your elbows at your side, and close the gap as far as possible before returning. Aim to do this five to ten times for three sets.
- Raise calves – resting your hands on the back of the chair to keep you stable, lift both heels from the floor as far as you can, and then go down again. Repeat five times.
Increasing flexibility is important as people get older, so assist your elderly relative with the following exercises:
- Bend sideways – stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your side, and slide one arm down one side as far as you can go. Hold for two seconds and repeat with the other arm.
- Stretch calf muscles – place your hands against the wall to keep stable, then bend one leg and step back on the other leg a foot or more. Keep the leg straight with both feet flat on the floor. Do this with the other leg, and repeat three times.
General Tips for Exercises
Whether you use any of the above exercises or instead decide on different exercises, make sure your elderly relative stays safe and comfortable. This means wearing comfortable clothing that is loose fitting, starting slowly and building up to more vigorous exercise, and always having a bottle of water within reach.
Do the exercises together to start with so that you can help them with any difficulties they encounter, and work together to find an exercise routine that works for them.
Fun Exercise Ideas for Older Adults
Finding fun ways to enjoy exercise is a smart and easy way to stay fit, build muscle, and improve your balance and coordination. Exercise comes in many forms, including some activities that feel more like fun than actual exercise. Help your loved one find an activity that they enjoy and they’ll be more likely to maintain a regular exercise routine.
Here are some fun activities to suggest to your loved one or to try out together.
- Dance: Sign up for a dance class together or carve out some time for dancing to your favourite music at home.
- Enjoy being outdoors: Go for a bike ride, a stroll in the park or join your local walking group. Exercising outdoors allows you to get out of the home and enjoy some fresh air.
- Go bowling: Join a bowling league with your loved one or make it a weekly appointment with family and friends.
- Water exercise: Swimming is a great form of exercise that’s low impact – something that is especially important for older people with joint pain or stiffness. Check your local fitness centre or pool as many of them offer exercise classes tailored for older adults.
- Yoga or Tai-chi: Both yoga and Tai-chi are gentle, low-intensity exercises that are good for your body and mind.
Online Exercise Videos for Older Adults
Some of the best exercises for older adults at home are online exercise videos. There are many online resources available that can help you stay fit in your own home. With all the different resources available out there, it can be difficult to know where to begin. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite resources below to help you get started.
- ElderFitUK: This award-winning company offers complimentary exercise videos tailored for older adults.
- AgeUK: AgeUK, in partnership with the charities responsible for the We Are Undefeatable campaign, has created a variety of physical activity videos designed to help older adults and people with mobility challenges move in a way that feels right to them.
- MoreLife Health Seniors: Mike Kutcher, a physiotherapist specialising in healthy movement for older adults, hosts a variety of videos aimed at helping over 60s feel better through healthy movement.
- Arm and Leg Exercises for Older Adults: UK-based exercise physiologist and personal trainer Joanna Marcinekova offers a variety of 10-minute exercise videos designed to help older adults improve their strength, balance, and coordination.