Easy Exercises to Help Seniors Improve Posture and Combat Osteoporosis
Ask any child to pretend to be a senior citizen, and what’s the first thing he or she does? Stoop over to walk. The older we get, the more likely we are to experience a forward, slumped posture and rounded shoulders. Weakened muscles due to inactivity, along with slumping to type on computers and text on our phones contribute to posture issues. To complicate matters, aging bodies are more prone to osteoporosis and its precursor, osteopenia.
The CDC reports that one-quarter of all American women aged 65 or older suffer from the condition—and the rates of osteoporosis rise with age—about 26 percent of adults aged 80 or older have the condition. But seniors can fight back with exercises that improve posture as well as exercises for osteoporosis. In fact, it’s possible to reduce the risk of osteoporosis with exercises, while helping to build and maintain bone density and strong muscles.
There are two types of exercises for osteoporosis that are important for building and maintaining bone density: muscle-strengthening exercises and weight-bearing exercises. The exercises included here can be done anywhere, anytime. Below are 10 easy exercise for seniors divided into muscle-strengthening, weight-bearing, and posture-improving movements that will help promote stronger bones, combat poor posture, and put more pep in your step- not to mention help reduce aches and pains.
Lying hip bridges – This exercise focuses on strengthening your gluteal muscles in your backside, which help you stand, push off from a chair, climb stairs, and walk more confidently. Steps:
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
Push your lower back flat into the floor, squeeze your backside, and gently push hips up into the air
Keep your feet grounded (no tippy toes) as if you want to push your toes out of your shoes
Pause, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position
Increase repetitions as your body allows
Wall pushups – These are a modified version of a floor pushup, good for strengthening your back, shoulders, arms, and core. Steps:
Face an empty wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away
Lean your body forward, and place your palms flat against the wall at about shoulder-length and shoulder-width apart
Bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall slowly
Count to five while keeping your feet firmly in place
Pause, then slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight once again
Repeat up to 10 times, or as many as feel challenging
Toe stands –These are good for strengthening calf and ankle muscles which improve stability and balance. Steps:
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart near a counter or chair that you can use for support
Slowly push your heels up as far as you can go onto the balls of your feet as you count to five. Try to hold this position for two to five seconds
Then, lower your heels slowly back to the floor as you count to five, where you’ll find yourself flat on your feet
Dead bugs – It may be a funny name, but these are excellent for improving core stability for better balance and overall strength.
Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs up in the air, your knees bent
Press the small of your lower back into the floor
While keeping your core tight and knees bent, lower one leg toward the floor and the opposite arm behind you
Pause, then lift them back up to the starting position
Repeat with the opposite arm and leg as many times as your body allows without pain or straining
Brisk walking – This is one of the simplest, best ways to enhance bone health. The only requirements are comfortable clothes and supportive athletic shoes.
Your goal is to walk up to four hours a week (split up any way that works for you) at a nice brisk pace if possible, but slower if needed for your fitness level.
Studies have shown that four hours a week can result in 41 percent lower risk of hip fractures, compared to those who walked less than one hour per week.
Walking can be more enjoyable if done with a friend!
Tai chi and yoga – Both of these routines are wonderful for building coordination and strong bones, while improving flexibility and reducing stress.
In postmenopausal women, studies have shown that practicing 45 minutes of tai chi a day, five days a week, can help slow bone loss.
A daily yoga routine can provide similar benefits while strengthening the hips, spine, and wrists–bones that are highly susceptible to fractures.
You can find free guided videos on YouTube and other sites.
Aerobics – There are many kinds of aerobics classes expressly geared for seniors, but dancing, swimming, biking, and even treadmill walking are all ways to get your heart pumping, while helping to reduce the chance of osteoporosis. The goal is to get your heart rate up (check with your physician to see what your target resting rate and aerobic rate should be) and get a full workout for muscles and joints.
Mountain pose – Great for balance and better posture
Let your body sway a tiny bit then relax into a centered position
Lift though your ankles and knees and tighten your thigh muscles
Your abdomen remains relaxed
Continue to lift upward through your spine. Imagine the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling
Let your shoulders fall back and relax
Look straight ahead
Hold 30 seconds to a minute
Wall tilts – Great for improving posture
Stand straight with your back against a wall
Move your feet out about a foot from the wall, keeping your shoulders and pelvis against the wall
Inhale as you arch your back
Exhale and flatten your back into the wall
This can be done with your arms at your sides or, if it’s comfortable, place a flat hand behind your back and squish your hand into the wall on the exhale
Repeat about 10 times
Corner stretch – Great for strengthening and lengthening your spine and back muscles Steps:
Stand in the corner of a room with your arms extended to the walls at shoulder level
Step one foot forward, letting that knee bend
Lean onto the front leg, bringing your head and chest toward the corner
Hold for 20-30 seconds
Stand up straight and switch feet
Repeat it on the other side
Do 2 on each side, 3 times per week
These are just a few examples to try. You can find many more excellent restorative movements and exercises online simply by searching key terms like “senior exercises that improve posture,” and “senior exercises for osteoporosis.”