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Common Exercises For Seniors

Last updated: May 6, 2022

Some of the top athletes in the world are simply those who are unstoppable–exercising at elite levels into their golden years. If you’re one of these athletes, remember that you also need to balance weightlifting with low-impact exercises and movements to improve flexibility. We’ve compiled a list of exercises for seniors that enable you to get the most out of your workouts and feel great, along with information on  modifications and frequently asked questions:

And if you're looking to support some sore feet, check out 10 Exercises for Sore Feet. So let's dive in.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, up to 70% of people over 60 deal with back pain. One of the best ways to combat this is simply to stay active!

Yoga and Back Exercises for Seniors

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, up to 70% of people over 60 deal with back pain. One of the best ways to combat this is simply to stay active! Here are several movements to work into your fitness routine:


Cat-cow is a yoga pose that stretches and elongates the spine, creating space and flexibility within the back body. It is one of the best back exercises for seniors.
Gently ease onto all fours, keeping hands stacked under shoulders and knees under hips. Connect your breath with each movement. Inhale as you arch your spine down and look up, without straining the neck (cow pose); exhale as you arch the spine upward (like a hissing cat!) and look down, pushing the ground away from the palms.

Downward-Facing Dog

downward facing dog

Downward-facing dog is a core yoga pose that strengthens and lengthens the back, shoulders, and hamstrings. Keep your feet flat and walk your hands forward until your body is in a triangle shape. Press your palms firmly into the ground, pressing through the fingers. Engage the core and allow the head to hang heavy, neck relaxed.

Push the pelvis upward while lowering the chest. Bend the knees as much as necessary.
Continue to breathe throughout the posture.

Leg Raises

Leg Raises are an incredible abdominal workout. A stronger core can help immensely with back pain. These are also posterior pelvic tilt exercises.
Lay on your back. Raise one leg at a time, about halfway up; lower in a controlled manner before switching to the other leg. Don’t strain yourself; bend your knees as much as needed.
If you’d like to challenge yourself, raise both legs at once.

Water Aerobics Exercises for Seniors

Water aerobics exercises for seniors are excellent cardio that won't stress your joints. A study of water aerobics participants over 12 weeks showed that one can increase strength in the quads by 27%, in the hamstrings by 40%, and by around 10% in the upper body. Plus, many gyms hold regular classes for water aerobics exercises for seniors!

Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is one of the best water aerobics exercises for seniors, and a great way to enjoy cardio without straining the joints. You may simply jog back and forth across the shallow end of the pool, or jog in place. Add hand or ankle weights for an extra challenge!

Standing Water Push-Ups

Standing Water Push-Ups build strength in the arms, shoulders, and chest. Head to the shallow end and lean against either one of the stairs or the side of the pool. Do standing push-ups while in the water, keeping the hands shoulder-width apart.

Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks are a fantastic, low-impact cardio exercise. To do these you may either stay upright in the water and kick to keep yourself afloat (staying near the edge of the pool or something to hold onto), or you can grab a kickboard, keeping your head above water and kicking forward.

Pool Exercises for Seniors

Swimming is one of the best pool exercises for seniors and a low-impact, high-calorie-burning workout for all ages. At an average to moderate pace, you could burn 140 calories in just 30 minutes. Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel hot! There are several primary swimming strokes.

Freestyle requires you to be face down, propelling yourself by kicking the legs, and pulling the water by circling the arms forward. Breathe as often as needed, quickly turning your head to the side.

Breaststroke utilizes a frog-like kick out to the sides as your hands push forward (in prayer position) and then pull backward. Breathe by bobbing the head up in between reaching and pulling the hands.

Backstroke allows the face to remain above water. While floating on your back, flutter kick your legs and reach each arm backward in a circular motion. Be mindful of where the wall is. You may also use a kickboard by holding it with your hands, straight above your head.

Posterior Pelvic Tilt Exercises

If you have a posterior pelvic tilt, it can lead to rounded shoulders and a forward head position (Thoracic Kyphosis). This can occur with age and is most common in senior women. Here are several movements to help correct the pelvis.

Glute Bridges

Glute Bridges are excellent for strengthening the back and glutes. It’s also a core pilates pose. Lay on your back. Walk your feet forward to a comfortable position, with your soles flat and knees stacked over your ankles. Keep your hands at your sides. For an additional challenge, hold the arms straight up, and you can add light hand weights!
Engage the glutes and abdominals as you slowly raise the hips, exhaling at the top, and lower in a controlled motion.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Seated hamstring stretch can help if tight hamstrings are causing the pelvis to shift. This is also useful as one of the pre hip replacement exercises.
Sit in a chair and straighten one leg in front of you, with your foot resting on the ground and your toes pointed up. Lean forward until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for at least 15 seconds and repeat on the other side. You can also pulse forward and back with the torso to help deepen the pose, exhaling forward and inhaling back.

Cobra Pose

Cobra pose lengthens tight stomach muscles and the hip flexors.
Lay on your belly, tops of feet flat on the ground (or toes pressing down if you have knee pain).
Slide the elbows under the shoulders (advanced – come directly onto the palms). Push upward until you feel a stretch in the abdomen.senior exercises - cobra

Pre-Hip Replacement and Other Exercises

Strengthening muscles that support the hip joint will lead to faster recovery. These pre-hip replacement exercises are good to do even if you are not having surgery.

Calf Raises

Keep the feet shoulder-width apart and hold onto a chair. Raise both heels off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds before lowering. Advanced version – Practice this movement one leg at a time.

Quad Sets

Quad sets can help support your before hip replacement: Lay on your back. Place a pillow or towel under the back of the knee. Keep your feet flexed and press your knee down.
Hold for 5 seconds; repeat 10 times, with 3 sets on each side.

Quad Arcs

These are also used as pre hip replacement exercises. Lay on your back with your knees over a foam roller, rolled towel, or pillow. Straighten your legs one at a time, keeping the toes flexed and knee in contact with the prop. To release, bend the knee and slowly relax the leg.


Step onto a footstool one leg at a time. Try to isolate the strength of the movement to the stepping leg. Lower down one leg at a time, and repeat.


Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor, which improves blood flow and urine control. Tighten the pelvic floor muscles, hold for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps, 3 times per day.

Tai Chi for Seniors

Tai chi is a Chinese martial arts form that is also known as shadow boxing. It integrates elements of Qigong and balances both yin (slower) and yang (faster) movements. Tai chi can help improve chronic pain, balance, strength, flexibility, and mental health while helping mitigate fall risks.

exercise for seniors: tai chi
Photo by Kevin Olson on Unsplash

Best Shoes for Tai Chi

When choosing the best shoes for Tai Chi, you should look for ones made of leather with rubber soles; they best protect the toes. Canvas material is fine during hotter weather.
It’s important that the shoes are lightweight for ease of movement. Ensure that the soles hold on well to the ground and don't slip.


How many times per week should a 60-year-old lift?

3 to 6 training sessions per week are commonly recommended for senior lifters.

How can I build muscle at age 75?

Strength training through resistance exercise. Muscle mass decreases with age, but it can be reversed!

How can seniors improve flexibility?

Exercises like yoga, pilates, tai chi, swimming, and water aerobics are some excellent ways to improve flexibility.

What’s best for senior lifters, volume or intensity?

It's more important to focus on the intensity of each lift. More is not always better; as the body ages, it takes longer to recover. The highest priority is to focus on paramount form while still challenging yourself.

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