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Warm Up Exercises for Seniors: Types + Why Seniors Should Do Them

By Maurice

Warm Up Exercises for Seniors

Children can suddenly go from sitting still to running full speed, and it doesn’t seem to hurt them. That’s an ability we lose as we get older. Young and middle-aged adults need to warm up before they do heavy exercise or play sports, and it’s even more important for seniors.

Please click the button below to download a free PDF of the exercises in this article:

Keep in Mind:

Before starting any new exercise(s), we strongly recommend you follow the advice of the National Institute on Aging and consult your doctor.  

What Are Warm Up Exercises for Seniors?

A good warm up involves more than just doing a few stretches. We need to get our hearts and lungs going as well. We need to warm up the body temperature and loosen the muscles. A couple of the best warm up exercises are a brief walk and marching in place with exaggerated arm swings. The ideal warm up routine, however, includes movement of all parts of the body as well as a few stretches. Ideally, it should last 10-15 minutes, long enough to break a sweat and get the muscles ready.

What Are the Benefits of Warm Up Exercises for Seniors?

The most significant reason for warm up exercises is to prevent injury. Stretching cold muscles too quickly is an invitation to injury. As we get older our bodies tell us they need a little extra time to get going, and they’re telling us the truth.

It’s not just stretching them that makes your muscles more supple during warm up. With a little cardio, the heart rate and respiration go up. Your blood flow increases and you move more oxygen. That O2 gets delivered to your muscles, and their efficiency improves. Their reaction time improves.

Warm up time is mental preparation as well. It reduces tension and stress. If you’re going to be competing, it helps you develop the edge you need. Whether your activity is a sport and a workout, a good warm up will enable you to attack it with better performance.

Best Warm Up Exercises for Seniors

Here’s a combination of easy exercises, seated exercises and sport-specific exercises you can incorporate into your next warm up session.

Easy Warm Up Exercises for Seniors

Warm up shouldn’t be strenuous. Here are some easy ones to get started with.

1. Shoulder Rolls

  • Stand up straight with your arms by your sides.
  • Lift your shoulders and roll them forward, all the way around in a circle.
  • Move your arms and shoulders only. Keep your torso as motionless as possible.
  • Do about 20 circles. If you can, make them bigger as you go.
  • Now do 20 more rolling your shoulders in the other direction.

These can also be done in a chair.

2. Shoulder Squeezes

  • Stand up straight with your arms by your sides.
  • Alternately, bend your elbows 90 degrees and hold your forearms directly in front.
  • Pull your elbows and arms back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Aim for a symmetrical squeeze. Try not to bring in one shoulder blade farther or faster then the other.
  • Do 1-2 sets of 10-20 reps.

Like the shoulder rolls, these can be done seated.

3. Neck Stretches

  • Stand straight with your arms by your side.
  • Slowly bend your neck backward as far as is comfortable. Ideally, you’ll be looking straight up at the ceiling.
  • Bring your neck forward until you’re looking at your feet. Try to tuck your chin against your chest.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.
  • With your torso facing straight ahead, bend your neck and look to the left then to the right.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Make circles with your head, about 10 in each direction.

All motions should be slow and controlled with the torso motionless. These can also be done in a chair.

4. Leg Swings

  • Balance yourself with your left hand. Place your palm flat on a wall or grasp a table or chair back.
  • Swing your right leg forward as if you’re kicking a ball. Kick as high as you can without losing balance or moving the left side of your body.
  • Then swing the leg back behind you. You probably won’t be able to go as far backward.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Turn around and swing the left leg.

Warm Up Chair Exercises for Seniors

You can elevate your pulse and body temperature seated as well as standing. Here a few exercises for the chair.

5. Seated Ankle Circles

  • Sit straight in your chair.
  • Extend your right leg or cross it over your left. If you extend, it’s OK to stick it straight out or bend your knee so your foot is just off the ground. These two positions will feel a little different.
  • Make circles with your ankle. Keep the rest of your leg as still as possible. These may feel jerky. Smooth them out as best you can.
  • Make 10 circles.
  • Make 10 more in the opposite direction.

For an extra challenge, raise and circle both ankles at the same time.

6. Seated Hamstring Stretch

Strong, flexible hamstrings support the hips and knees and help prevent falls.

  • Sit straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart.
  • Extend your right leg. Straighten your knee and rest your heel on the floor.
  • Rest your hands on your thighs.
  • Slide your hands down your leg until you feel the stretch.
  • Bend from your hips. Keep your back straight from the hips up.
  • If your knee feels stressed, let it bend just a little.
  • Hold for about 20 seconds. It’s OK but not necessary to deepen the stretch during the 20 second count.
  • Repeat on the left side.

7. Seated Shin Stretch

A shin stretch counters the effects of being on your feet a lot. It also helps prevent shin splints.

  • Sit in your chair.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left. Keep your left foot flat on the floor.
  • Curl the toes of the right foot downward and press your legs together.
  • Hold for about 20 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

8. Seated Hip Lifts

  • Sit in your chair with your back resting against the chair back.
  • Grip the sides of the chair with your hands.
  • Raise your right knee and lift your right hip off the chair.
  • Hold it for 10-20 seconds.
  • Repeat about 3 times on each side.

For a different feel, slide forward in the chair. Or cross your legs and lift the upper leg and hip. 

Tai Chi Warm Up Exercises for Seniors

Tai chi is an ancient art that uses controlled and gradual body movement. Just the right thing for a warm up. Here are three routines that loosen the entire body.

9. Waist Loosening

  • Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than hip width.
  • Let your arms hang by your sides.
  • Rotate your hips to the left then back to the right. Your relaxed arms will flap against your body.
  • Make if a smooth and slow motion. Don’t pause in the twisted position.
  • At first, keep your head, shoulders and upper back facing forward.
  • As you continue, you may include your spine, shoulder and head in the movement.
  • Continue for 1-2 minutes or until your body feels warmed up, loose and natural.

10. Torso Twist

The previous exercises moved the hips. This one twists the trunk while hip movement is minimal.

  • Stand up straight, feet hip width apart, and put your hands on your hips. You’re going to use your hands to gauge how much your hips twist.
  • Inhale and stand tall. Imagine your spine growing upward.
  • As you exhale, twist your torso to the left. Go as far as you can without significantly turning the hips. Keep your knees directly above your ankles.
  • Your knees will bend slightly. Don’t let one bent differently from the other.
  • Twist 5-10 times to each side.

11. Windmill

  • Stand with your feet flat on the floor and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Relax your shoulders and let your arms hang by your sides
  • Bring your arms out in front of your body with your fingers pointed slightly downward.
  • Inhale and raise your arms over your head.
  • Arch your spine back just a bit and reach for the sky.
  • As you exhale, bend forward toward the floor and bring your arms down. You should end up bent from the hips with your arms hanging loose in front.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

A modification: as you bring your arms up and down, make a slight arc to the outside of your body for a windmill effect. Do this motion equally between the right and left sides.

Golf Warm Up Exercises for Seniors

Sometimes golf seems like a leisurely game, but it can strain and jerk the muscles. Loosen up before you tee off.

12. Standing Quad Stretch

This helps you stand straight and keeps your knees and hips flexible.

  • Balance with your left hand on a wall, chair back or other object.
  • Bend your right knee and grab your right ankle. For an easier lift, grab your pants near the cuff.
  • Gradually pull your leg up to your bottom. If it hurts your knee, don’t pull it quite so high.
  • Hold for about 20 seconds.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

For an extra stretch, lift your rib cage and look straight forward.

If you’re confident of your balance, you can do this standing free without holding anything. If you can raise your free hand overhead, give yourself a gold star. But don’t try it unless your balance is excellent.

13. Golf Club Back Twist

You can do this one on the first tee. Or on any tee, for that matter.

  • Stand up straight. Lay your driver across your shoulders and hold it with both hands.
  • You can also do this with the golf club positioned under your arms.
  • Turn at the waist as far left as is comfortable.
  • Hold for about 20 seconds.
  • Repeat toward the right.
  • Do about three twists on each side.

14. Hip Rollover Back Twist

You need to get on the floor or ground for this one, so you might be more comfortable doing it before you meet on the first tee. It’s excellent preparation for the twisting motion your golf swing requires.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Feet are slightly more than shoulder width apart.
  • Keeping your upper back flat on the ground, bend at the waist and drop both knees to the left.
  • Hold for 15-20 seconds.
  • Do this stretch 2 or 3 times on each side.

Warm Up Any Time of Day

Warm up exercises are important whenever you’re about to participate in a sport or a workout. You can also do them prior to moderate to vigorous activity such as gardening, cleaning and working about the house. In fact, you don’t really need an excuse to do warm up exercises. Do these any time of the day just because they feel good, relieve tension and help you feel relaxed and invigorated.

Make it a habit to do a few minutes of warm up every time you get ready to exert your body. You’ll be rewarded not only with protection against injury but also with better performance and reaction time. It will give you the mental and physical edge to help you participate at your best.


Warm Up Exercises – Silver Sneakers

Warm Up Routine

How to Warm Up

Warming Up Stretching For Seniors And The Elderly


7 Dynamic Warm Ups

7 Basic Tai Chi Exercises for Seniors

Tai Chi for Seniors: 3 Moves to Improve Balance and Stability

Senior Stretching Exercises – Chair Exercises for Seniors

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