Exercise for Elders

Resources for Grandpals

Keeping active is important at any stage of life, but for our older parents it’s vital to keep them moving. Regular exercise helps in maintaining overall wellbeing, beneficial for both mental and physical health. This article will outline the types of exercises your loved one can incorporate into their daily lives to help keep them in tip top form.

Regular exercise presents a whole range of benefits including a longer life span, increasing balance and strength, which helps to prevent falls, and promoting a healthy heart through engaging in aerobic exercise.

According to the NHS, adults over the age of 65 who are generally healthy should get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, and practice strength and balance exercises at least twice a week.

Try encouraging some of the following exercises, most of which can be done in the comfort of their own home with no specialised equipment.

Remember, before implementing a new exercise regime, talk with their local GP first to get the go ahead.

Balance:

Heel-to-toe walk

  • Standing, stretch your arms out in a T shape.
  • Put one foot directly in front of the other so that the heel of one foot touches the toes of the one behind.
  • Choose a spot on the wall to focus on as you walk, this helps in maintaining balance.
  • Repeat for 20-30 steps.

Standing on one foot

  • Get yourself a sturdy chair with no wheels.
  • Use the chair to lean on, initially with both hands and as you progress and feel more confident you can try with one hand.
  • With your back straight and looking forward, lift one foot off the ground and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Change feet and hold again for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat up to 10 times, increasing each day as you gain more strength and balance.

Side leg raise

  • Get your trusty chair again for support and stand behind it with your feet spread slightly apart.
  • Slowly raise one leg to the side, with your back kept straight and toes facing forward.
  • Change legs.
  • Repeat the exercises 10 times per leg.

Strength:

Wall push-up

  • Stand a little more than arm’s length from a wall with your feet spread shoulder- width apart.
  • With your arms shoulder height and width apart, open the palms of your hands with the fingers facing upward and lean against the wall in front of you until your elbows are bent
  • Aim to have as little space between you and the wall as possible.
  • With feet kept firmly flat on the ground, hold the pose for a couple of seconds.
  • Slowly push yourself back until arms are straight again.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Toe-raise

  • Take your sturdy chair again and place your feet flat on the ground.
  • Without shoes is better.
  • Lift your toes from the ground and hold for a couple of seconds.
  • If you wish to do a more advanced version, you can stretch your lower leg out in front and flex your foot to point your toes upwards.
  • Change feet.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Bicep curls

  • This exercise can be done sitting down or standing.
  • You’ll need light weights, or you can use filled water bottles as a substitute.
  • If sitting, sit upright with your back straight.
  • If you choose to stand, position your feet hip-width apart.
  • Arms by your side, slowly raise the weights until they reach shoulder height.
  • Slowly lower until starting position.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

Aerobic:

Step-ups

  • For this exercise you’ll need to use the stairs in your home, or alternatively you can buy a small step from a sportshop.
  • Start with both feet at the bottom of the stairs and bring the right foot up onto the first step.
  • Then follow with the left foot onto the same step.
  • Then lower the right foot back onto the ground and follow with the left foot.
  • Repeat 10-15 times
  • Change sides and begin with the left foot next, again repeating 10-15 times.
  • If you’re a bit unsteady at first, make sure to hold onto the railing for support.

Walking

  • This one will require you to leave your home, unless you have masses of space to ramble around inside!
  • Walking is a great way to get in your aerobic exercise.
  • You can start off with 10-15 minutes a day, even just walking around your garden if you feel more comfortable to begin with.
  • But, once you gain confidence and stability through doing the above strength and balance exercises, you can increase the length of your walks and venture around the local area.
  • Not only is walking a great form of aerobic exercise, there’s a lot to be said for your mental health by breathing in a bit of fresh air and getting out of the house on a regular basis.

Swimming

  • If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, then swimming is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise for older adults as it’s low impact.
  • A great way to ease into swimming, especially if it’s been some time since you braved the waters, is to attend a water aerobics class.
  • This is a great way to have a bit of guidance, with the added benefit of meeting other people!

Doing a combination of these exercises as often as possible can help benefit your older parent’s health and wellbeing.

Always consult their GP before doing any new exercises. For information on available services in the local area aimed at fitness, get in touch with their Local Health Office.

If you’d like to get your older loved one involved in a combination of exercise and socialising, the organisation Age and Opportunity run a programme called Go for Life.

The programme receives funding from the Irish Sports Council. It has been designed to encourage the older population to take part in sport and physical activity through working alongside Local Sports Partnerships and the Health Service Executive Health Promotion Units.

For more information on this, and more programmes offered by Age and Opportunity, just click here.

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