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Five Easy Exercise Modifications for Seniors

FitnessSome seniors are under the impression that they don’t need to exercise regularly. They might think that they’re too old, they might think that it’s too dangerous, or they might just not particularly care about getting any activity in during the day.  If any of these mindsets sound familiar to you, it’s important to remember that regular exercise is a recommendation for all adults, include seniors. 
 
In fact, the government’s exercise recommendations are the same whether you’re 26 or 62 -- shoot for 150 minutes of moderately intense cardiovascular exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise) and at least two strength training sessions each week.  Even if you understand the importance of physical exercise, you might shy away from traditional workouts because of poor joint mobility or other physical limitations. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can modify exercises to make them more accessible to you.

Explained below are five easy exercise modifications that will help you do the workouts you used to love without fear of pain or injury.

1. Chair Squats

A squat is an amazing functional exercise that strengthens nearly all the muscles of the lower body. Squats are also great for the core and lower back. However, they can be challenging for older adults, especially for those who have poor balance or poor hip or ankle mobility.  If you’re part of this group, don’t worry. You can still reap the benefits of squats with a few modifications.  There are a couple of different ways you can modify a squat with a chair.

Your first option is to simply stand in front of the chair and lower yourself down onto it just like you normally do when you go to sit down. Then, stand back up and do it again. Keep your arms out in front of your for balance.

You can also stand behind the chair and hold onto the back of it for balance. Keep your feet flat on the ground and slowly lower yourself down into a squat position while keeping your back straight. Rise back up to standing and repeat.

If you avoid squats because you have knee pain, try wearing a knee brace or sleeve. This will help increase circulation to the knee to prevent stiffness and provide you with extra support.

2. Wall Push-ups

Push-ups are another effective exercise, especially for the upper body. They specifically help strengthen the chest, arms, shoulders, and core.

If getting down on the ground to do regular push-ups isn’t feasible for you, try doing them against a wall or countertop instead.  Simply place your hands flat against the wall at shoulder height. Lean into the wall or countertop and bend your arms until they form 90-degree angles. Then, push into the wall to straighten them back out again.

3. Modified Jumping Jacks

 
Chair squats and wall push-ups will help you target most of the major muscle groups in your body. Even if those are the only two strength exercises you do, you’ll still be in pretty good shape. Now, it’s time to think about your cardiovascular exercise.
Cardio has come a long way since the step aerobics classes of the 80s. There’s no need to squeeze into an uncomfortable leotard and there’s no reason to do a bunch of jumping to get your heart rate up.  One of the easiest ways to get some cardiovascular activity in without leaving the comfort of your own home is to do some modified jumping jacks.

Start by standing up straight with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Raise your arms up over your head and extend your right foot to the side. Bring your arms back to your sides, then raise them up again and extend your left foot to the side. Repeat this motion, alternating feet each time you raise your arms overhead.

4. Go Slow

If you want to mix up your cardio a bit, remember that you don’t have to run to burn calories. Walking is just as effective and is a lot easier on your joints, especially your knees and ankles. Try to go for a daily 30-minute walk around your neighborhood.  In addition to doing something beneficial for your heart and lungs, you’ll also get to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
 

5. Use Resistance Bands

If you want to challenge yourself a little more in the strength department, consider buying yourself a set of resistance bands. Resistance bands are very affordable and easy to store, so they’re a great tool for seniors prefer exercising at home. You can use resistance bands to make your chair squats and wall push-ups a bit more challenging. You can also use them to do accessory exercises like bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep kickbacks, and leg raises.

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