Exercise isn’t just for the young. Anyone can start getting in shape regardless of their age. If you’re like some seniors, you might refrain from staying active if your joints tend to flare up with pain. But just sitting still will only make this pain worse. Older adults can gain more independence and enjoy a higher quality of life by incorporating exercise into their daily routine. Learn how you can stay active without hurting your joints with these joint-friendly exercises.
Chair and Bench-Based Exercises
If your joints are bothering you, you may not feel prepared to tackle most of the machinery at your local gym. Treadmills might set off your arthritis and lifting weights might seem like too much of a challenge. But you can get a great workout at home or at the local park by doing some routine moves that will help you stay active and stretch your muscles. You just need access to a solid, firm chair or a bench and you can start using your body in all sorts of ways.
Sit to Stand
Start by standing in front of the chair or bench with your back to the seat. Now put your arms out straight and slowly bend your knees as if you’re about to take a seat, all the while arching your back and keeping good posture. Slowly, your hips will bend as you finally take a seat in the chair. Repeat this eight to 12 times and you will start to feel the burn. You’ll work your joints, core and back muscles without putting too much strain on your body.
Leg Figure Eights
A great way to work your abdominal muscles is to do some leg figure eights. Sit down on the chair or bench with your palms on the seat and your back against the chair. Now, keeping your feet together, lift your legs into the air for 30 to 60 seconds as your make small figure eights with your feet. You will stretch and work your abdominal muscles as you hold your feet in the air.
Facing the bench or chair, lean down and put your palms against the seat. Keeping your back straight, bend one knee at a time, pulling your leg towards your chest while holding on to the chair. Then, just switch feet and repeat this motion for 30 to 60 seconds. You can gently work your joints without overexerting yourself.
Joint-Friendly Exercises for the Pool
Swimming is a great way for seniors to get active. If you have a pool on your property or know someone who does, working out in this environment might help you feel more comfortable as opposed to going to a local gym. You don’t need any equipment other than the pool itself. Above ground pools and inground pools both work well for a variety of joint-friendly exercises.
Exercising in the pool helps you use just about every muscle in your body. From walking in place to light strength training, you can get a full-body workout without exerting a lot of energy. Water has more resistance than air, which means your muscles will have to work harder just to move through the water but not to the point where it becomes overly difficult.
The buoyancy of the water reduces the strain on your joints, which can be helpful if you’re struggling with arthritis. Raising the temperature of the water in the pool can also help reduce joint pain. The Arthritis Foundation recommends raising the temperature to around 82 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Walking Through Water
Walking normally through water doesn’t require a lot of specialized training or expertise. You can simply walk through the water just like you would on dry land. With the added resistance, you will use your muscles in new ways.
To get started, get in the pool with the water coming up to your chest. Take a big stride, making sure your foot is firmly planted on the floor of the pool. Then, complete the step as you move your body through the water. Your back should be straight, and you should be engaging your core muscles with every step. You can also try walking sideways or backwards through the pool to shake up your routine. Raising your knee to your chest underwater can also help you burn more calories and work your joints without any added discomfort.
Aquatic Strength Training
You can also build up some muscle in the pool, which can help reduce joint pain. Having some added muscle mass takes the pressure off your joints because your body won’t have to depend as much on your joints when you’re moving around. The pool is a great place for some light strength training. The added resistance from the water forces your muscles to work harder than they normally would on land.
To build muscle in the pool, try lifting a light rubber dumbbell, usually around 5 to 8 pounds. You can stand with the water up to your chest as you work your biceps and triceps underwater. You can also work your legs by doing some underwater squats. Holding a weight in each hand, slowly bend your knees in the water. Then, bring yourself back up, keeping your back arched and your hips aligned.
You can also head to the edge of the pool if you want to work your chest. Facing the wall of the pool, stand two feet away from the edge and slowly lean forward until your hands reach the wall. With your hands firmly planted on the wall, do a series of underwater wall push-ups to help build up your chest.
If you’re like some seniors, you may prefer a light touch when exercising in the pool. And water yoga provides just that. You can stretch and bend your body in new ways without exerting a lot of energy. It may help to join a class for water yoga or have a trained professional nearby who can help you maintain proper posture and balance during the exercise.
You can try the cobra position, which involves standing near the edge of the pool, leaning forward, holding on to the edge and slowly arching your back and tilting your forehead back into the water. Your stomach should come close to the wall of the pool without touching it. Take a few deep breaths before returning to the starting position.
The backend is the opposite of the cobra. Stand with your back to the edge of the pool. Arch your back slowly as you lean back towards the edge of the pool. Reach back your hands until you grab the edge. With your knees bent and your back arched, take a few deep breaths before returning to the starting position.
You can also try simply raising your arms above your head in the water to get the blood flowing. You can also bend over and touch your toes, raise your knees to your chest while standing still in the water or swivel your arms and back from side to side.
Cardio is a staple of any workout routine and that applies to seniors as well. Cardio gets the heart pumping and burns calories, which can help relieve joint pain. If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy weight, those extra pounds can make your joint pain worse over time. Your joints will have to work harder to support your body. But you can keep your waistline trim by doing some light cardio from time to time.
Of course, walking is a joint-friendly exercise that almost anyone can enjoy. You’re probably used to walking around the neighborhood, but you can get in the habit of treating it more like exercise to help you burn some extra calories while lightly working your joints. You can try increasing your pace as you walk on the treadmill or around your community for a few minutes and then going back to your usual pace to cool down. You can also try using ankle weights or carrying dumbbells as you walk to help you build muscle and endurance.
If you don’t have the means to wander around your community or hop on a treadmill, you can do some steps in the comfort of your own home. Using a slightly elevated surface like a step stool or a stepping pad, you can practice raising your legs and taking a step. This helps you burn calories and maintain good balance as you raise one leg into the air and take a step.
Doing steps also decreases the chances of injury in everyday situations like stepping up to the curb on the street, getting in and out of a car or walking up the stairs at home. You might want to keep a rail nearby or work out over a padded surface like carpet in case you have trouble keeping your balance.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can try doing lunges around the house or at the gym. Taking great strides, take a large step forward and let your back knee get close to the ground. Holding that position for a few seconds, complete the step and return to an upright position. This works your legs, glutes, abdominals and core muscles that you can use to improve your balance and posture.
Light Strength Training and Stretching
You can also do a range of simple moves and exercises at home to build muscle. No additional equipment is required, which makes these moves perfect for seniors looking to get back into fitness quickly. These exercises are designed to build strength without overexerting the body or your joints.
Isometric Chest Press
You can work your chest muscles without having to get down on the ground and do push-ups. As many seniors will tell you, getting down and off the floor is no easy feat. But isometric chest presses offer an alternative to all the huffing and puffing that comes with push-ups. All you need to do is stand upright and clasp your hands together at chest level. With your palms touching, push your hands together as hard as you can for 10 to 15 seconds and then release. Repeat this action five times in a row for a low-impact exercise.
Isometric Shoulder Extension
The shoulders often don’t get as much attention as they deserve during a workout routine. The shoulders are an important muscle that helps you maintain good posture. To do an isometric shoulder extension, stand with your back against the wall and your arms at your sides. Now, press your arms against the wall for 10 to 15 seconds, feeling the burn in your shoulders. Repeat this move 10 times to get a good workout.
Isometric Thigh Exercise
You don’t have to do squats to work your leg muscles. Sitting on the floor or on a bed, you can work your thighs by keeping one leg extended and the other leg bent. Tighten your thigh muscles as hard as you can for around five to 10 seconds. Then, switch legs and repeat this move. It’s a simple exercise that gets the blood pumping to your legs without a lot of movement. It’s a perfect move if you’re looking to work your way up to more strenuous exercises like swimming or running.
You have a lot of options when it comes to staying active and getting exercise without damaging your joints. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or specialized classes. You can work your muscles and burn calories by doing a series of routine movements and exercises at home or in the pool. This helps you engage your joints and reduce joint pain without too much difficulty.
Grab a friend and start exercising today!