Workout Routines for Older Adults
Last updated August 2022
In this article I'm going to talk about the most optimal type of workout routines for older adults and give some critical background information that will be required before you actually embark on one.
I will also include 2 free workout routines that you can try.
By the time you've finished this article you will know:
- Exactly what the best type of workout routines for older adults are.
- The things you need to do before you start a workout routine.
- The difference between upper body and lower body exercises.
- What equipment can make workout routines for older adults even better.
- How quickly you will build strength as an older adult
- The pro's and cons of using a personal trainer or coach.
Let's get to it.
What type of exercise should older adults do?
I talk frequently about the importance and benefits of strength or resistance based exercising for the older adult population. You can read about it in more detail in this article.
It's true to say that any type of exercise is going to be beneficial to health but certain types of exercise will have different effects on your physiology. For example running or jogging won't do anything for your upper body strength and it will only improve lower body strength to a small extent.
My general advice is to pick a type of exercise you enjoy because that's the one you're most likely to do regularly.
The NHS recommends approximately 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. That would much harder to achieve if you were trying to activities or exercise that you hate doing.
However at least some resistance exercise should be done regardless of whether you enjoy if you want to maintain optimal health, function and independence as you age.
There's just no getting around it. Luckily there are plenty of workout routines for older adults out there.
This European review looked at some of the evidence regarding resistance training in older adults and found numerous heath benefits including improved muscle strength and endurance, enhanced bone mineral density, weight reduction, maintaining an improved self-image, and gaining confidence.
What is the best time of day for seniors to exercise?
The time of day you choose to exercise doesn't make a huge difference from a physiological standpoint.
Some people have a tendency to be more "awake" and naturally active earlier in the day and others later in the day. This tendency is governed by our own circadian rhythms.
If you feel better working out in the morning then stick to the morning and if you prefer working out in the evening then stick to the evening.
One thing to look out for would be when you're eating in relation to when you're working out.
Some people can do a workout before eating anything but others may need to eat before working out.
Some people need to wait for a while to workout after eating but others can eat and feel comfortable working out fairly soon afterwards.
Ultimately, stick with what works best for you.
What types of exercise programs are appropriate for adults over the age of 70?
This question really depends on the individual.
We have Wise Fitness Academy members in their 80's who can comfortably do 3 resistance training sessions per week on top of daily walks and other activities.
We also have other members in their 60's who are just starting out on their fitness journey and are doing fewer sessions per week, for less time as they build up their strength and fitness.
Other members struggle with arthritis and can only do certain exercises.
Exercise programs need to be individualised to accommodate for a range of factors.
However there is always a way to exercise no matter what your situation is.
The Wise Fitness Academy has lot's of different workout routines for older adults that are designed especially for certain populations. They differ in duration, intensity, equipment used and selection of exercises.
Let's go through some really important steps you should do and some really important information you should know about before embarking on workout routines for older adults...
Getting consent from your Doctor
You should always get consent from your doctor before doing new workout routines for older adults.
All members of the Wise Fitness Academy are required to fill out a Pre-activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q form) and get consent from their doctor to participate in exercise.
Your doctor may advise against certain exercises, movements or positions if you have a particular ailment.
Don't neglect to this first step.
The importance of warming up
Warming up before you exercise is really important.
There is a loose correlation between the planned intensity and type of workout you are going to do and the warm up.
Elite level body builders and strength athletes are required to spend much more time prepping their bodies and muscles for the heavy weights they are about to lift.
If you're only going to do a low intensity workout then the warm up portion can be dialled back a bit.
The warm up serves to prime your body for exercise.
The objective is to build up to it slowly. Gently increase the heart rate and warm up the muscles.
Your body will react to the increased activity by producing synovial fluid in the joints. This fluid acts as a lubrication between the joints and let's them glide more smoothly.
The Wise Fitness Academy workout routines for older adults normally start with a warm up between 4-10 minutes depending on the intensity of the workout you have chosen to do.
For example, the 10 minute chair based workouts designed for those with limited mobility and fitness normally have a very gentle 4 minute warm up which consists of simple movements.
If you skip the warm up and move straight into more intense exercise you will put yourself at a much bigger risk of injury.
Major muscles in your upper body
It's always good to have a basic understanding of what different exercises are doing to your body.
Our muscles pull on our joints to make them move. The stronger and more healthy the muscle, the more effectively it will move the joint.
Some of the major muscles in the upper body include:
- The pectorals (chest)
- The deltoids (shoulders)
- The bicep and triceps (arms)
- The trapezius (upper back)
- The latissimus dorsi (back)
Typically, we see lots of our Wise Fitness Academy members with weak upper body strength when they first join up.
That's likely because it's much easier to neglect the upper body when it comes to keeping the muscles strong.
Our legs in the lower body are required in day to day life to walk around, sit down and stand up and so the lower body muscles normally get some exercise by default.
What's the heaviest thing you pick up on a day to day basis? Maybe the Kettle? Pots and pans? How long do you actually hold these items for? Usually only a few seconds.
This isn't enough time to really work the upper body muscles enough for them to stay strong or grow stronger.
Our upper body is is required to pull things, push things and pick things ups.
These are all essential movements that are required in day to day life.
By neglecting to keep the upper body muscles strong you run the risk of eventually not being able to perform simple day to day tasks such as lifting pots and pans.
We also require upper body strength to compliment our lower body strength. The upper and lower body don't work in isolation.
Major muscles in your lower body
The major muscles in the lower body include:
- Glutes (around your bum, side of the upper leg)
- Hamstrings (back of the upper leg)
- Quads (front of the upper leg)
- Soleus (calf) ((back of the lower leg))
- Adductor (Inner thigh)
- Abductor (outer thigh)
As I just mentioned, by default we use the lower body/leg muscles just walking around, going up and down stairs, sitting down and standing up. Our lower body effectively has to support our entire bodyweight.
It's equally as important to keep the lower body muscles strong as it is to keep the upper body muscles strong.
Doing this will give you better balance, reduced risk of falls, better mobility and all around better health.
Full body workout
There are many ways to programme effective workout routines for older adults.
In general the Wise Fitness Academy workout programmes are full body ones.
For general hypertrophy (muscle building/strengthening) it's perfectly possible to exercise all the major muscle groups in one workout.
This means you don't need to plan as many workouts across the week.
2-4 full body workouts per week is enough to preserve or even grow muscle mass across the whole body.
The importance of lifting weights
In order for your muscles to get stronger and stay strong you need to apply enough of a stimulus to them.
There are some professions that require lots of regular lifting of heavy things. Builders and scaffolders for example. They regularly have to lift heavy objects and so their muscles will remain strong.
As we get older, we tend to do less. How often do you lift heavy things around? I'd be willing to guess not all that much.
That's why weights are so great. They are literally designed for us to lift.
They have comfortable handles and are shaped in such a way that they are easy to pick up and do exercises with.
You don't need to go to a gym to have access to weights. A simple set like the ones in the picture below costs around £20.
We find that lots of our clients are hesitant to use weights at first and are often intimidated by them.
Lots of the Wise Fitness Academy workout routines for older adults just use body weight or resistance bands but we gently encourage our members to invest wisely in some weights to further develop their strength and health.
We teach all of our clients about why weights are so helpful when it comes to exercising.
How quickly will you build strength
You can expect to build strength pretty quickly. With regular workouts and gentle progression you will feel the benefits in only a few weeks.
After a few months you will feel like a different person.
You will feel noticeably stronger, more mobile, more energetic, better mood and you within a few months you'll even see the progress when you look in the mirror.
Not to mention other numerous health parameters that you will improve that you won't necessarily notice or see.
Things like lowering cholesterol, reducing blood pressure and reducing insulin resistance are all outcomes of regularly doing our workout routines for older adults.
What are the benefits of having a Trainer /personal trainer/ fitness coach
The benefits of having a personal trainer or fitness coach as an older adult are numerous:
- Better accountability
- Better confidence in what you're doing
to name just a few of them.
Personal trainers and fitness coaches can come at a cost but with today's technology there are so many cost effective options out there.
That's exactly what the Wise Fitness Academy offers.
We have 2 levels of membership which offers affordable options for everyone. You can see the memberships here.
We offer 1-2-1 online fitness sessions whereby a Wise Fitness Academy trainer will guide you through our workout routines for older adults via a video call. Without the cost of travel and money saved on less commuting time we can offer fantastic personal training rates.
The general heath benefits of physical activity
It's important to step back and remember the more general health benefits that comes from physical activity.
Yes, there a certain types that are more optimal for certain things but on the whole regular physical activity is so important for optimal health.
The Wise Fitness Academy workout routines for older adults offer lots of variety. We have workouts for improved strength, better balance and coordination, improved cardio, better flexibility and improved day to day function.
You can come and try out some of our workout routines for older adults by clicking here. And don't forget we offer a 7 day free trial.
The Wise Fitness Academy resident yoga teacher
Due to popular demand we also host some exclusive yoga sessions that are designed specifically for older adults. These are included in the Wise Fitness Academy membership.
As promised I have included a couple of free workout routines for older adults below.
If either of these workouts feel too advanced for you or you don't feel comfortable doing them, please stop immediately.
(Disclaimer: Don't forget to obtain your doctors consent to participate in exercise. If you choose to do either of these workouts you assume all responsibility for any outcomes)
Workout routines for older adults - 10 minutes
Workout routines for older adults - 20 minutes