Mobility Exercises for Seniors: A Complete Guide

Falls are a major health concern for the aging population. A significant number of falls are attributable to declining strength, balance, and mobility due to inactivity. Here is a complete guide of mobility exercises for seniors, including stretch exercise, strength training, cardio exercises and balance exercises.

Keep in mind: Before starting any new exercise, we strongly recommend you follow the advice of the National Institute on Aging and consult your doctor.

In this guide, I will share with you 4 different types of mobility exercises for seniors.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in:

Stretch Exercises – Basic Mobility Exercises for Seniors

With age, the joints and tendons become weaker and affect mobility. Ease stiff joints and improve your flexibility with these gentle moves—including many exercises you can do in a chair!

1. Overhead side stretch

mobility exercises for seniors

The overhead side reach stretch in particular stretches your back and core, opens up your chest and shoulders, and treats your neck to gentle pressure that eases soreness. For those who cannot stand, you can do this exercise while sitting in a chair. It is one of the most popular mobility exercises for seniors.

  • Targets: Lower back, core, neck
  • How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms overhead. If you’d like, interlace your fingers.
  • How long: Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side.
  • Benefits: Simple and easy to do anywhere. Stretches tight back and core muscles. Relieves tension in the neck.

2. Neck and Shoulder Mobility

neck and shoulder stretch

Seniors should do all neck and shoulder exercises very slowly with normal breathing. By approaching your joints from the neck down, this can also improve your overall posture while alleviating stress and tension. 

  • Targets: Neck, shoulder
  • How to do it: Start with a deep breath and slowly move the chin towards the chest as you breathe out. Continue normal breathing and move your head left and then right. After the neck, relax your shoulders and let your arms hang loosely by your side.
  • How long: Do 8 to 10 reps.
  • Benefits: Help improve the range of motion necessary for day-to-day activities like driving, cooking, or cleaning.

3. Calf Stretch

mobility exercises for seniors

Tight calf muscles or injuries can lead to foot and leg pain, including plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and knee pain. Adding a calf stretch to your daily routine should be considered.

  • Targets: Calf, soleus 
  • How to do it: Keep one leg back with your knee straight and your heel flat on the floor. Slowly bend your elbows and front knee and move your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your calf. 
  • How long: Hold for 10 to 30 seconds per side
  • Benefits: Activate the muscles, stimulate blood flow, increase your short-term range of motion and flexibility.

Strength Training – Important Mobility Exercises for Seniors

“Strength training is important for anybody, but it’s especially key for older adults,” says Damien A. Joyner, C.P.T., a specializer in healthy aging. It’s because strength training offers more benefits than just keeping your muscles strong.

1. Planks

planks mobility exercises for seniors

A strong core is important for any movement. The Plank is one of the best core exercises that has the added benefit of strengthening your arms, shoulders, and back.

  • Target: Body core
  • How to do it: Place hands on bed or chair, wrists aligned with shoulders. Take a step back, tuck your bottom, engage your core by pulling your belly button into your spine.
  • How long: Hold for 2 or more seconds. Rest for a minute and then repeat two more times.
  • Benefits: Can prevent falls, protect your spine, help you maintain good posture.

2. Chair Squats

elderly people doing squats

Squatting, as basic mobility exercises for seniors, strengthens the entire lower body and the core muscles around the torso. This makes activities like climbing stairs and picking up things from the floor easy.

  • Target: Glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps
  • How to do it: Stand in front of a chair with your feet shoulder width apart. Put your arms across your chest with your hands touching your shoulders. Then, push your hips backward, bend your knees and lower yourself down slowly to sit down on the chair.
  • How long: 10-20 squats per reps
  • Benefits: Boost your circulation, avoid injury and stiffness, and gaining strength

3. Quadruped Arm and Leg Extension

Quadruped arm and leg extension of seniors

Quadruped arm and leg extension are great strength training and mobility exercises for seniors and enhances body balance. The core muscles activate as the opposite arm and leg extend at the same time.

  • Target: Glutes, hamstrings, legs
  • How to do it: Get on all fours in quadruped. Keep your back straight and your hips in a neutral position. Lift one arm straight out in front of you while kicking your opposite leg straight out behind you. Slowly come back down. Then repeat with the other side.
  • How long: Do at least 5 times each sides
  • Benefits: Help to strengthen the lower back and prevent injury and is used for physical therapy if you have a spinal injury or sciatica.

Cardio Exercises – Heart Rate Mobility Exercises for Seniors

Cardio activity is any movement that increases your heart rate, like brisk walking, stair climbing, swimming, running, cycling, or playing a sport. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise 3 to 5 days a week to keep your heart healthy, reduce weight and strengthen your lungs.

1. Brisk Walking

Walking is a simple and popular exercise for seniors. It benefits the heart, lungs, blood circulation, digestion, and sleep cycle.

  • Target: Heart, lungs, blood circulation
  • How to do it: Keep your neck, shoulders and back relaxed, engaging your abdominal muscles. Move naturally. Swing your arms loosely and freely with a slight bend in your elbows. Walk steadily, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
  • How long: 30 minutes per time, 3 to 5 days a week
  • Benefits: Maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat. Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

2. Stair Climbing

stair climbing

Stair climbing activates your core muscles in your legs, such as your hamstrings, quads, calves and gluts. As a result, your legs will become stronger and enhances your movement.

  • Target: The same muscles as squats and lunges
  • How to do it: Climb up and down a flight of stairs at a speed that suits you. Grab side rails while climbing up and going down the stairs.
  • How long: 10 minutes per time, 3 to 5 days a week
  • Benefits: Strengthen the larger leg muscles, helps with body balance, and keeps high blood pressure in check.

3. Swimming

swimming senior

Swimming is one of the excellent cardio exercises mobility for seniors. Many elderly adults love morning swimming on the beach and enjoy the sunshine together with friends and family.

  • Target: Get a full body workout
  • How to do it: Warm-up before stepping into a pool. Focus on getting an adequate workout rather than tiring yourself out in the pool. Take breaks and stay hydrated by sipping on water.
  • How long: 2 to 4 times a week
  • Benefits: Improve the respiratory system, strengthen the lungs, and improve body balance.

Balance Exercise – Overall Mobility Exercises for Seniors

Balance exercises work on improving muscle strength and building body coordination. Studies reveal that a 12-week program that includes balance exercise could improve mobility, balance, mental function, and quality of life among the elderly.

1. Single-Leg Raises

single leg raise

  • Target: Lutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
  • How to do it: Lay down with your legs and back flat against floor. Now keep your legs straight and raise your left leg with feet up until pointing straight in the air. Slowly lower back down to the floor.
  • How long: Hold for 5 seconds each time, repeat 5 times
  • Benefits: Increase proprioception, reduce body and muscle imbalances

2. Tree Pose

accessible tree pose for seniors

The Tree Pose is a yoga exercise that focuses on steady breathing, building balance, and using core strength. You can use a chair for support. It is also simple mobility exercises for seniors.

  • Target: Shoulders, gluteus
  • How to do it: Get into position. Tree pose often starts from mountain pose, with both feet planted firmly on the ground and your weight adequately distributed so that you are balanced. Bend one leg at the knee. Lengthen your body.
  • How long: 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Benefits: Strengthen the legs and core while opening the hips and stretching the inner thigh and groin muscles

3. Ball Marches

ball marches

Ball March is a slightly advanced balance exercise to improve mobility in seniors. It strengthens the spine and core muscles while building coordination and balance.

  • Target: Sculpt triceps and core
  • How to do it: Begin by sitting on the exercise ball in a good posture. Plant your feet firmly and keep your core engaged. Then begin lifting each leg alternately a few inches off the ground in a slow march.
  • How long: Hold for 1 to 2 minutes
  • Benefits: Strengthen the core, improve stability and tone arms. 

Summary of All Mobility Exercises for Seniors

Regular physical mobility exercises for seniors is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It helps your muscles grow stronger so you can keep doing your day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.

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