Tai Chi for seniors, I believe, is one of the best modes of exercise around. I have practiced Tai Chi (the full name is Tai Chi Chuan) or yoga off and on over the years.

As you may know, it comes from ancient China as a martial art at first, later developing into an effective and healthful exercise routine, as well as relaxing. Similarly, yoga can relax and re-energize as well, but you need to be aware of certain factors when practicing yoga for seniors.

I first became familiar with Tai Chi back around 1993 or so when my kids were still kids, via a friend in martial arts. She invited us to a demonstration given by her school one evening. Towards the middle of the demo, the instructor had us all stand up and taught us some simple movements for about ten minutes.

Well, let me just say — I was astonished with how I became energized. In the evening when I would have been ready to crash. It felt like my whole body was sort of buzzing with energy. I was clear-headed and full of enthusiasm. All in ten minutes.

Tai Chi For Seniors – Basics

Concepts

Briefly, Tai Chi was begun by a Chinese Taoist monk who modeled the movements (also now known as Sets or Forms) that he developed loosely after various animal movements.

It also incorporates the ancient concept of our yin and yang energies and keeping them in balance for better health (now very familiar even in the West). The ancient philosophy stresses relaxation and tranquility. 

Tai Chi for seniors involves a series of very slow-motion, relaxed movements, one flowing into the next, so that the body is continually in a graceful motion until finished. It is almost dance-like and meditative.

It can be practiced either alone or in a group. (It’s ideal for doing outdoors on your patio or park area). These are low-impact motions, yet are considered weight-bearing, so excellent for increasing bone and muscle strength.

Deep breathing is included, so Tai Chi is also a mildly aerobic exercise routine. Concentrating on the movements and breathing together helps us become more able to relax our thinking and emotions.

I can also say that it definitely helps with better sleep (aging and sleep issues often go hand in hand), and it is an effective restless leg syndrome treatment as well. It’s also good for your heart. Another benefit is lowering blood sugar levels for those with Type 2 diabetes.

Overall, the benefits of Tai Chi make it an excellent exercise for seniors. Besides muscle and bone strength, sleep improvement and help with restless legs, it can also help us develop better posture, balance, thus less chance for falling. And as I mentioned earlier, another result is an increase in energy levels.

As with other routines that involve body movements, stiffness and mild pain can greatly improve (although you might experience temporary slight stiffness or soreness from the exercising itself). Tai Chi for seniors is often recommended for those with arthritis. It can be very good for general elderly health care.

Best Ways To Learn

But as usual, before you begin any exercise program, be sure to check with your health professional. It may be possible to modify some of the movements as needed.

It’s best to learn Tai Chi for seniors from an instructor because each movement should ideally be done in a specific way, especially if it needs to be individualized. Physical therapists have included modified movements in their work with patients.

Many senior centers offer classes, as do yoga centers. And if you can get a group together, these instructors may agree to come to your facility or campus to conduct classes there for you. It’s a great group activity idea.

Tai Chi is fast becoming a more and more popular way to improve health for all ages, including as exercises for the elderly.

to Easy Exercise For Seniors

elderly exercise

Exercise for seniors and baby boomers has been hammered into us.  And there are equipment and gadgets galore. So why not make it easy, fun… and even a game.

We’ve been told exercise is one of the most important measures we can take to improve our independence and health as we age. Both for ourselves and as part of the elderly health care for those we may be taking care of.

It’s also really, really important if you’ve been a caregiver like me.

I had to make sure Dad did enough exercise of the right kind – thankfully, he’s always enjoyed it. But I also need it for myself, as a baby boomer caregiver.

For the specific exercises, including those of Dad’s in his 90s, see our page on fun exercises for the elderly.

Why Exercise for Seniors ?

If you’re feeling burdened or overwhelmed in any way, or tend towards depression (which can happen to most of us sometime during life), exercise truly helps. For me, exercise is the one sure way to get the brain chemistry back in balance when I am battling with feeling down or sluggish.

We’ve probably all heard all of the reasons why we should exercise since we get it in the media and magazines on a regular basis. But here is a summary of some excellent reasons we need to exercise as we age, according to the Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Reasons To Exercise
Exercise for seniors…

    * Is good for your heart
    * Stabilizes blood pressure
    * Increases proper lung functioning
    * Improves back pain
    * Decreases joint pain and stiffness
    * Is excellent for weight control
    * Strengthens the immune system
    * Helps manage diabetes and glucose levels
    * Increases muscles strength
    * Improves flexibility
    * Helps with arthritis pain, including rheumatoid arthritis
    * Helps maintain good balance
    * Improves overall walking ability
    * Reduces falls and injuries
    * Strengthens bones and improves bone density
    * Lifts your mood and helps with depression
    * Calms and relaxes, and can ease anxiety
    * Improves aging and sleep problems
    * Lessens daytime drowsiness
    * Improves restless leg syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps
    * Can provide important social activity too

We may know all this. But do we do it? Many of us still resist – but why? Sometimes out of habit, sometimes for health reasons. Maybe we think we don’t have time. Or maybe we’re just a little lazy? Some us think exercise can be flat-out boring. But for older folks, exercise can also come in the form of many different elderly games.

As far as I’m concerned, first and foremost, it’s got to be fun. (Unless you’re having to do a rehabilitation routine, of course). I am one of those who resist exercise unless it is really appealing. Or necessary, like house work and yard work. And yes, those are included as forms of exercise. Plus, I do it in front of the TV, especially the Home and Garden channel.

I also have to bribe myself to exercise – give myself a special reward when I’m done.  Plus it’s got to be easy – and exercise for seniors and boomers can be very easy, including while sitting and reclining.

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the average person 65 years or older, exercise for seniors should ideally include both:

    a) Aerobic (cardio) exercise to increase heart and lungs activity;
    b) Plus strength training for the various muscle groups.

The major muscle groups include: arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips, legs. Exercise for seniors should include using these muscles groups several times per week.

Here is a simple breakdown of the ideal amount of exercise for seniors:

  • 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic (cardio) exercise each week (including brisk walking) and muscle strengthening for all muscle groups a couple days a week; OR
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobics and muscle strengthening for all muscle groups a couple days a week.

Any of this can be done in (at least) 10 minute segments throughout the day and week. It takes a good 10 minutes of any activity for it to really be effective. Stretching and joint exercises can also be included. And what is considered moderate exercise for seniors, may be vigorous for others. Like walking.

It depends on what shape your body is in (and we’re not all going to look like the picture here), what you are used to, and your overall health. Moderate exercise will simply make your heart beat faster and you will breathe harder.

With vigorous exercise like running, you will also break into a sweat. And if the mere idea of running makes you gasp in advance (like me), then just walk. As rapidly as possible. I guess they call this “power waking.” Walking alone will make me break into a sweat after awhile.

Sweating is healthy for you, of course, for your liver and for cleansing toxins out of your body. Just be sure to shower afterwards, or the toxins can be reabsorbed, one of my health professional friends has advised me. And as we age we should always consult our doctors or health professionals regarding exercise for seniors and middle-aged folks too, especially if we have health issues.

This all may seem like a tall order. At least to me.
Sometimes you have to first just get started in a small way, and then build it up. I know that if I jump into anything too fast and too much, I won’t keep it up.

Exercise for seniors is meant to be flexible and fun, even social. If you don’t know where to start, check out the following possibilities in your area:

    Senior center
    Fitness club
    Church groups
    Some local clinics and wellness centers offer exercise classes
    YWCA or YMCA
    Community ed center

Whatever you choose to do, be sure to always consult your medical professional first if you have any concerns. And pay attention to your own body. The most important thing is – to get moving – even in a small way! And consistently!

More on exercise for seniors and elderly:

Fun Exercises For The ElderlyGet specific exercises. At age 97, Dad is a champ with exercises for the elderly. We’re sharing what we do for many ability levels.
Tai Chi For Seniors — Tai Chi for seniors is based on an ancient Chinese tradition. But you may be surprised about how adaptable and beneficial it really is.
Yoga For Seniors — We have excellent ideas about yoga for seniors, even if you are chair or home bound (like we are). And if you’re an activities director, you can also learn to “teach” a mini yoga class yourself, the easy way.


to Elderly Health Care

Dad’s a real champ when it comes to knowing exercises for the elderly. Some of them he devised himself and did for years. Others are movements I taught him to do together. When home-bound (including as a caregiver), it can be difficult to get out to classes and groups.

This led me to put together an overall routine of exercises for both me and Dad to do at home. For many people and caregivers, exercises can also be great outdoor elderly activities.

We go beyond the usual… Like, the obvious walking, jogging, mowing the lawn, gardening, golf, swimming, bicycling, doing stairs, house work, and dancing. So we do not cover those in detail here.

Dad’s Exercises for the Elderly

I have to admit Dad’s somewhat of an unusual guy for his age — even at 96, completely ambulatory, needing neither a cane nor walker.

He made a point of exercising all of his limbs and joints over the decades to keep himself that way, with arthritis or pain anywhere.

What he did was really easy — (aside from golfing 18 holes several times a week until he was 93, then lost too much sight to keep it up). So he’s been exercising his whole life.

But it’s never too late to start. At least some of the exercises for the elderly that he does can be used by almost anyone. “The secret,” he said, “is to just move something, somewhere, every day.” Even if you’re in bed.

Dad’s particular daily routine: rotating or moving all of his joints and limbs; walking paces around the house or outdoors; pulling exercise bungee cords tied to the sides of his chair for his arms; lifting 5 pound weights from his chair (as he is doing in the photo to the right); going up and down the stairs (with me) twice daily; gentle knee bends; various leg stretches; simple chair yoga movements with me.

Up until he was about 94 he used to also lay down on the floor and do all kinds of floor exercises. Then just got up off the floor like it was no big deal.

When he moved back here a couple years ago and I first saw him do this, I was floored! I have a hard time getting up off the floor myself, and I’m decades younger. (Floor routines are not a standard part of exercises for the elderly).

I know that is atypical. But there are lots of ability levels for the elderly, and we discuss here a lot of simple exercises for the elderly that can be done by just about anyone.

They should be easy and fun, (although I am aware that some exercises people do when undergoing certain types of physical therapy are not exactly fun!).

More Easy Exercises For The Elderly

If you need a few ideas to jump-start your exercise routine, or if you are helping others, these are some of our favorites. If you are not used to exercising, start out with 5 or 6 times per exercise, then increase to 10, and so on. You’ll find many can be done sitting down or even laying down.

  • Deep breathing – It is good to first start exercises for the elderly by sitting quietly and closing your eyes. Take a deep, slow breath through your nose, hold for about 4 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat at least 4 times. This will clear your head and get oxygen flowing through your system.
  • Walking in the air – An idea from our visiting nurse: While sitting, stretch your legs out in front of you so they are in the air. If you cannot hold them up, then stretch them out so they are on the floor or a foot stool. Then “walk” so that you flex your feet heel to toe, heel to toe, from foot to foot – as if walking in the air. This gets the circulation in your legs going and, she said, can help prevent blood clots in the legs. Great to do while working, watching TV, or reading.
  • Peddling in the air – This is related to the above. Put your legs out in front of you (like Dad on the right) and raise them slightly off the floor. You can grip onto the sides of the chair. Use a peddling motion as if on a bike. Gradually you’ll be able to keep your legs in the air longer and longer. Great for circulation and muscle strength.
  • Stand up and lift yourself up on your toes, then put your heels and feet back flat on the floor. You can use a wall for balance as needed. Do this at least six times. Heel-toes can also be done in a chair.
  • While sitting, rotate your ankles in circles first in one direction, then the other. Exercises for the elderly that rotate the joints will keep them limber and helps ease any already existing joint pain.
  • Toe scrunches – One of my dad’s favorites. Simply scrunch the toes in and out to keep them strong and flexible. Good for balance too.
  • Hand scrunches – Make a fist and then spread the fingers out wide, then back to fist mode, then spread them out again, several times.
  • Wrist rotations – Rotate the hands in circles in the air first one way, and then in the other direction. Then do the same with just rotating the thumbs.
  • Shoulder rotations – Make circles with your shoulders by pushing them up, forward, down, and back. You can do them together or one at a time. Then change directions.
  • Neck rotations – Sit with your body straight forward, then draw circles in the air with your neck and head, either full circles or halves, whichever works better for you. You can also just turn your neck and head from side to side. With any neck exercises for the elderly, you should start out very gently if you are not used to them.
  • Arm and shoulder lifts – With elbows straight out at chest level, fold your hands together in front of your chest as if in prayer, with fingers pointing straight up. Then move the entire arm, hands and elbows straight up and down, so your pointed fingers move from chest level up to mouth level, and then back down to chest level. Repeat several times.
  • Swimming in the air – Either stand or sit on the edge of your chair and make arm motions in the air as if you are swimming, as Dad is demonstrating to the right. Of course real swimming is one the best overall exercises for the elderly.
  • Reach for the stars – While either sitting or standing, look up and stretch one arm and hand up high above your head as if reaching for the stars with it. Your body will slightly tilt, and you will slightly lift up on the opposite foot as well. Then stretch with the other hand and side, feeling the stretch also in your waist and hips as you do it. Do this back and forth stretching up, alternating hands, several times.
  • Backside bicycling – You can do this one in bed, couch, or while laying on the floor if possible. (I like to do it while watching TV). Raise your legs straight up into the air above you. Slide your hands under your lower back or under your thighs for support. Or put them under your neck or head. Whatever is comfortable. Then just simply move your legs in the air as if bicycling. Really good for leg circulation and muscle tone.
  • Portable bicycle – I purchased one of those small, portable bicycle exercising gadgets that you use sitting in your chair. It’s a great little machine for a couple different exercises for the elderly. You can put it either on the floor for your legs, or use it on your lap and pedal with your arms. I use it for both arms and legs all the time, especially when on the phone or watching TV.
  • Stair stepping – You will need to be able to step up and down on one stair for this. Hold onto a wall or banister on each side for better balance. With the left foot leading, just step forward up the step, and then bring the other foot up. Then step back down the step. Repeat leading with the left foot several times. Then switch to the right foot and do it again. Increase the amount of stepping you do, as you get used to this.
  • Strength training – Don’t know where to start? See this web page and PDF booklet by the CDC for easy exercises for the elderly and seniors about strength training. Great for chronic symptoms, as with diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, back pain, obesity, and more! Lots of excellent pointers.
  • See our page on Tai Chi For Seniors  – This ancient Chinese mind-body exercise helps with breathing, muscle strength, and flexibility, and is recommended by the Mayo Clinic – wonderful exercises for the elderly. Consider taking a class in tai chi, or buying an instructional DVD. Many senior centers and community centers offer classes at low cost. Perfect either alone or with a group. Because tai chi involves very specific movements, it is best learned from an instructor.
  • Dad and I both do yoga for seniors – You can read about it by linking to our page. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise excellent for balance, strength, flexibility. Now it is very mainstream and easy to find classes for it. We use a DVD called “Easy Yoga For Arthritis,” by Peggy Cappy. And just do the movements we like.
  • Again, it’s best to have an instructor and we explain just why. Another plus – some yoga can be done in a chair as well, so they’re perfect exercises for the elderly. Learn more about it.
  • I do exercises with a 55+ group and several of them are elderly. We use really fun DVDs by Jodi Stolove from her “Chair Dancing” series. She also has Chair Yoga. Very easy strength training and aerobices, sitting or standing (I like to stand). 

As usual, before you start any type of exercise program, you may need to check  with your doctor. But generally, some kind of exercise is usually included in a good health plan.

It’s just a matter of choosing what exercises for the elderly are right for you or those you care for. The more we exercise, the stronger we become, and who knows what’s next… like Dad (below) water skiing at 83!

Be sure to also read:

Elderly Health Care Issues and Solutions — Major health care matters that elderly face, and also solutions. A need for exercise and fitness is key.
Falls in Elderly – The Game Changer — A main cause for accidents and injuries over age 65 is from falls. There are specific reasons for falls, plus what you can do to help prevent it.
Elderly Nutrition — Elderly nutrition can almost become a crisis for many, especially when lonely and isolated – which can even happen when surrounded by others in a facility. Some easy ways to ensure good nutrition.

to Exercise For Seniors


I have to admit, I’m not big on exercise. But the movements done in a yoga for seniors program is even something even I get around to. Because it’s fun and easy.

And you can do it sitting down if you need to, like my Dad in his 90s. Yoga has long been known as a gentle yet excellent way to achieve balance, breath, flexibility and strength.

This page is not going to give you a whole bunch of yoga exercises to do – you really need an instructor to learn correctly.

But it Iwill tell our experience and point to some good pointers on what to consider about yoga for elderly and seniors. And baby boomers.

Plus, a really good resource if you want to try yoga at home rather than take a class. (And if you are an activities director, you can use our resources below to “teach” a little yoga class yourself). It’s also one of those great outdoor elderly activities.

Yoga For Seniors Basics

But Why Yoga for Seniors?
We all know the importance of staying as fit as we can while aging. Yoga for the elderly and seniors is an ideal way to accomplish this – you can modify it according to your needs and limitations. And if you are also going through something stressful, even traumatic, yoga has the added benefit of being calming and relaxing.

A Good Teacher – For Seniors

A class in yoga for seniors may be presented a bit differently than for say, the twenty-something age group. The instructor should be certified and aware of the limitations and challenges the aging are faced with – such as arthritis and osteoporosis issues; problems with the spine and various joints, particularly knees and shoulders; difficulty in bending and twisting, sometimes inability to get down on the floor.

Based on the data from the Centers For Disease Control about the importance of exercise, the routines included in yoga for elderly folks and seniors is especially beneficial for flexibility, balance, and muscle strength, all which can then help reduce falls in elderly.

I also find it excellent for improving sleep, and definitely for easing up those annoying restless leg syndrome symptoms. Yoga gets your energy flowing, including to your brain, so a wonderful side effect is a lift in your mood — especially when you participate in a class with other people or with your friends. Then you have the added social benefit.

About Classes For Seniors

Yoga for seniors has become quite main stream now, and almost every town and city seems to have a yoga studio or class. And most senior centers, even senior living campuses, have classes as well. Many studios will also come to your group if you have enough people interested in attending, and a commitment for a several-week period.

I have seen yoga for elderly classes in which most of the participants are using walkers or are in wheel chairs, yet all successfully participate. Yoga for seniors who are more limber most likely will entail stretches and routines on floor mats though.

When considering a yoga class, it is essential that you know your limitations and plug into a class at your ability level. My dad is doing easy stretches in the photo on the right, at age 96 1/2. And it should be taught by someone who is familiar with your age group.

Have you ever felt so tired or unmotivated that you just couldn’t get yourself out, especially not to a class, much less do the exercises? Yet you know you’re supposed to stay fit. Well good news. Movements used in yoga for seniors are so easy and flexible you can do them in your chair, just a little bit at a time if you want. As you build up your stamina you can do a few more, then more.

You still might not feel like getting up and going out to a class (especially in cold weather), but you’ll have a fun and manageable way to get your exercise in every day. And not be bored. At least I wasn’t.

We Love This Easy DVD

If you do not have, or cannot get, a yoga instructor to come to your group or facility (or if you need or want to exercise at home), then there is an easy way for any activity director (or you) to launch a little yoga class him/herself. I definitely suggest learning from an excellent DVD by Peggy Cappy called “Yoga For The Rest Of Us,” as well as “Easy Yoga For Arthritis.”

So if you didn’t have access to your own instructor before – you do now. It’s that easy to follow. I have the latter video (for arthritis) myself, and learned it very easily on my own.

Dad and I

Although neither Dad nor I have arthritis, I liked the easy way this was presented. Then I picked out several to do with my elderly father (age 96). Now we have a daily yoga routine that we do together (about 12 to 15 movements for arms, legs, torso, neck, shoulders). I do them sometimes standing, sometimes just sitting if I’m particularly tired. Dad always does them in his easy chair.

This DVD turned out to be a real blessing because, as a full-time caregiver, it is difficult for me to consistently get out to an ongoing class. Again, it would be really easy for almost any activity director to try and then teach.

Both Dad and I have both noticed a real difference in our energy level and flexibility. Dad was having just a little bit more trouble with balance while walking (and has a great concern for falling), but after a couple months of doing our little yoga for seniors routine, this has greatly improved. Now he feels much more confident. And we both notice that we sleep better.

As with all exercise for seniors, if you have concerns you should check with your medical professional first. And after beginning your class or program, if you feel pain or unusual discomfort, then stop. And check in with your doctor again.

Be sure to also read:

Elderly Health Care Issues and Solutions — If you are wondering about common elderly health care issues, and want excellent ideas and solutions, be sure to read this important information.
Tai Chi For Seniors — Tai Chi for seniors is based on an ancient Chinese tradition. But you may be surprised about how adaptable and beneficial it really is. I was amazed at how energized I got!

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