Five Essential Exercises for Seniors at Home

in Active Aging

Written by PARC Retirement Living

Resident doing exercise

Over the pandemic, access to fitness centres and public gyms has been limited, as B.C. communities work to contain the spread of COVID-19. Yet we know exercise is more important than ever, to maintain our physical and mental health.

A recent study by B.C. researchers even found that moderate exercise helps alleviate depression. The study, conducted by the UBC School of Kinesiology, included 300 people who did a mix of yoga, high-intensity interval training and a combination of the two – or were placed on a wait list. All of the participants who did some form of exercise reported that their depression decreased.

Fortunately, at PARC, we offer an array of fitness classes for residents, with social distancing and other COVID protocols in place. We’ve also been sharing at-home fitness techniques you can do alone. Or, use video calling software such as Zoom to work out virtually with a friend.

Sound like fun? Here are five creative exercises you can do at home with minimal equipment. Take 30 minutes and get your body moving!

Senior man doing pelvic tilt exercise

1. Pelvic Tilt

Great for: hips, core strength, lower back

This motion may not look like much on the surface, but it’s a stretch and a strength-building move combined, beneficial for releasing tight hips caused by prolonged sitting. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Then push your lower back into the floor, contracting your abdominal muscles as you exhale, letting your hips and pelvis rock back. Hold this position for five seconds, then relax (your lower back will rise off the ground slightly). Repeat two to three times, resting for 30 seconds to a minute between each set.

Woman doing bicep curl exercise

2. Bicep Curl

Great for: upper-body strength

You’ll need a resistance band for this one (strong, stretchy tubing with handles). Stand on the middle of the band with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, holding the handles in front of you with your fists upturned. Then curl your arms up toward your shoulders. The steady resistance from the band works your biceps and triceps as you move through the upward and downward phase of the contraction. Start with 10 repetitions, and increase as you feel able, resting for 10–20 seconds after each repetition. Repeat two to three times, resting for 30 seconds to a minute between sets.

Active Living Manager Miho teaching seated toe and heel raise

3. Seated Toe and Heel Raise

Great for: calves, feet, ankles

These exercises will strengthen the calf muscles and feet, which in turn support the ankles, for improved flexibility and balance. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Raise your heels off the floor and hold for about two seconds. Return your feet to the floor and raise your toes off the floor, holding for two seconds. Do two to three repetitions of 10, with a 30-second rest between sets. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can do this exercise standing up instead of sitting down.

Active Living Manager teaching sit to stand with arm raise

4. Sit to Stand with Arm Raise

Great for: legs, core, back

This exercise strengthens the muscles needed to increase mobility and improve balance. Sit on a chair with your arms at your sides. Ensuring your movements are slow and controlled, raise your arms as you stand up, until your hands are straight up in the air. Then lower your arms as you sit back down. If you can’t stretch your arms all the way up, raise your hands as high as you comfortably can. Repeat 10 times, in two to three sets, resting 30 seconds between sets.

Senior man doing bent over row exercise

5. Bent-Over Row

Great for: upper back, posture, core

This exercise uses hand weights to strengthen the upper back muscles and shoulders. Start with 3 or 5 lb dumbbells (or whatever feels challenging). You can even use a full water bottle or soup cans you have around the house. Then work up to heavier weights if you’re able.

Holding one weight in each hand, bend your knees slightly and lean over, keeping your back parallel to the floor. Brace your core muscles (as if someone is about to hit your stomach) and extend your arms toward the floor. keeping your elbows very slightly bent or at full extension). Without letting your shoulders slump forward, use your upper back muscles to pull the weights up to your chest and then lower them back to the extended position. Do two to three sets of 10 repetitions, resting for 30 seconds between sets.

If you need back support, brace one arm on a chair and complete the motion with a single arm, switching after you complete your repetitions.

More High-Reward Exercises for Older Adults to Try at Home

If you like the exercises we’ve recommended above, you can follow these links for more at-home fitness ideas:

Balance Exercises for Seniors

Resistance Band Exercises You Can Do at Home

5 of the Best Exercises for Seniors to Build Strength, Improve Balance and Boost Heart Health

20-minute Sample Workout for Older Adults from Go4Life

Total Body Strength Workout for Seniors

Core Stabilizing Ab Exercises to Help Prevent Injury in Seniors

PARC Senior Living is a network of independent-living communities across B.C.’s Lower Mainland. We’re committed to supporting our residents, and other seniors, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our COVID Resources page to stay informed on the most recent safety protocols at PARC.