What do you think of when someone suggests weight bearing exercises? Young muscular bodies straining against mountains of weight?
Well, those are indeed weight bearing exercises, but they aren’t the only kind. In fact, even if you’re an older adult, you’re already doing weight bearing exercise in your day-to-day activities. Here’s how to put those exercises, and other weight bearing exercises, to work for you.
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 Weight Bearing Exercises for Seniors?
Weight bearing exercises are any exercises that make the body work against gravity. That’s a lot of what we do naturally. It includes walking, climbing stairs, lifting grandchildren and carrying in the groceries. It includes aerobics, dancing, yoga, tennis and pickleball.
What it doesn’t include is bicycling, horseback riding and swimming. In those activities, beneficial though they are, you’re not holding up your own body weight. Something else is doing it for you.
Though older adults get some weight bearing exercise just by moving around, most of us could use a little more. There are specific routines we can add to our day to get the most out of this form of strength training.
What Are the Benefits of Weight Bearing Exercises for Seniors?
There’s nothing like weight bearing exercise for strengthening the bones and muscles. The stress of this sort of exercise makes the muscles stronger and the bones denser. Osteoporosis, in which the bones become weak and brittle, is a threat to elderly folk, especially women. A program of weight bearing exercises can help keep osteoporosis at bay.
When muscles become stronger, they’re better able to protect the bones. They improve the body’s balance, coordination and flexibility. Building muscles burns calories and can help those who would like to lose some weight.
Exercise in general can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. It can improve sleep. Seniors who exercise are less susceptible to every kind of ailment from heart disease to cancer to dementia. A regular exercise program is a great way to look and feel healthy no matter what age you are.
Best Weight Bearing Exercises for Seniors
If your daily routine provides you with some weight bearing exercise, great. Here a few ways to be deliberate about it and add a little more.
Light Weight Exercises for Seniors
Here are some easy weight bearing exercises based on things you do every way.
One of the best weight bearing exercises is also one of the easiest. Here’s how you do it.
Keep your back straight and your head up. About 30 minutes of walking 5 days a week is a good goal. Or use a pedometer and shoot for 10,000 steps a day. For an extra workout, carry a light dumbbell in each hand and exaggerate your arm motions as you walk.
2. Sit to Stand
You already do this several times a day, so why not make an exercise of it.
You can get a little extra exercise any time you stand up by using your arms lightly or not at all.
3. Step Up
Walking up a flight of stairs is an excellent daily-living workout. Here’s a way to get even more out of it.
There are many variations.
Body Weight Exercises for Seniors
In these exercises, you’re using your arms or legs to lift your entire body weight.
4. Heel Raise
You can do these with your hands on the wall or on the back of a chair. Or hands by your side for a bigger challenge.
Stand straight with your legs shoulder width apart.
As a variation, stand on a stair with your heels hanging beyond the edge, and lower your heels as well as raising them.
5. Push-ups or Knee Push-ups
Drop down and give me twenty! Do these the old fashioned basic training way, or give yourself a break and keep your knees on the floor.
As a variation on the knee push-up, raise your feet.
6. Wall Push-ups
You can also do a push-up without getting down on the floor.
For a harder exercise, do it with one arm at a time.
Do these between two chairs with your hands on the backs, or hands free if you trust your balance.
Hand Weight Exercises for Seniors
There are lots of exercises you can do without equipment, but dumbbells are inexpensive and don’t take up much space. They don’t have to be heavy. Even 2-3 pounds dumbbells enhance your workouts, but use more weight if you like.
These dumbbell exercises can be done in a chair, but the standing version provides the better weight bearing workout.
10. Lateral Raise
Free Weight Exercises for Seniors
Free weights such as dumbbells can be used for exercises that concentrate on the arms or for routines that work the entire body.
11. Dumbbell Crunch
The classic crunch is a leading exercise for building core strength, and the addition of weights brings a little more to it.
There are many variations.
12. Dumbbell Squats
If you were able to do regular squats without holding on to anything, try these for a more advanced workout.
Yoga and Tai Chi as Weight Bearing Exercise for Seniors
For a different approach to weight bearing exercise, consider yoga or tai chi. A lot of older adults practice yoga for relaxation and general fitness, but many of the postures bear weight, building flexibility and strength. Tai Chi is also a comfortable and relaxing practice that builds bone strength and fights osteoporosis.
Tai chi and yoga are offered at many clubs and senior fitness centers, and there are instructions online for all levels, including beginners and seniors. It’s easy, it’s approachable and anyone can do it.
You’re already doing weight bearing exercises!
When you get up in the morning and walk to the kitchen for your coffee, you’ve started off your day with a weight bearing exercise. From there it’s only a few steps (pun intended!) to doing even more.
When you’re getting up from your chair, do an extra sit-to-stand or two. As you get ready to walk up the steps, pause at the bottom for some step-ups. When you’re standing in your kitchen, pass the time with some heel raises.
Do a couple kinds of weight bearing exercises. Continue those you do naturally as your pursue your hobbies, and supplement them with a planned exercise routine several times a week. You’ll feel better, you’ll be stronger and you’ll keep your balance, flexibility and strength well into the golden years.
Supporting Scientific Studies
- 1Reducing Risk of Falling in Older People Discharged From Hospital: A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Seated Exercises, Weight-Bearing Exercises, and Social Visits
- 2Efficacy of physical conditioning exercise in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- 3Effect of Nordic Walking and Water Aerobics Training on Body Composition and the Blood Flow in Lower Extremities in Elderly Women
- 4Resource Manual for Active Seniors
- 5Exercise for improving balance in older people
- 6The effects of endurance and weight-bearing exercises on reaction time and postural balance in postmenopausal women
- 7Keep Seniors Standing Tall
- 8Long‐Term Exercise and its Effect on Balance in Older, Osteoarthritic Adults: Results from the Fitness, Arthritis, and Seniors Trial (FAST)
- 9Aerobic walking or strengthening exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee? A systematic review
- 10Effectiveness of a home-based exercise therapy and walking program on osteoarthritis of the knee