senior woman with white hair exercising with small hand weights

Best Strength and Balance Exercises for Seniors (And the Worst)

Exercise and nutrition are critical for a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle — especially for older adults.

Doctors and research scientists agree that seniors should remain as active as possible to create a quality life all throughout their golden years. 

In today’s post, we’ll give you some of the best exercises for seniors.

How Older Adults Benefit From a Physically Active Lifestyle 

  • Lower chance of osteoporosis 
  • Decreased depression 
  • Healthier brain function
  • Reduces blood pressure or risk of heart disease 
  • Stronger bones, muscles, and joints

According to the CDC, an exercise activity “need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits.” Even a small, repeated action done for a certain duration can yield great results! 

Additionally, being a part of a community-based activity program helps older adults stay more active. 

That’s why at Ivy Knoll, we offer classes and activities designed to get you moving (even if you’re seated). 

Exercises to Avoid for Seniors Over 70

  • Bench press 
  • Squats with weights 
  • Long-distance running 
  • Leg press 
  • Abdominal crunches 
  • Deadlift 
  • Rock climbing 
  • High-intensity interval training 
  • Upright row 
  • Power clean 
  • Overhead press or chest press

The Best Exercises for Seniors Over 80 

The best exercises for seniors over 80 include any low-impact, minimal-stress exercise that focuses on balance and functional strength for activities of daily living.

This enables seniors to maintain self-sufficiency and, ultimately, greater levels of independence as they age. 

Remember: What is considered “good” exercise changes based on a person’s age. As an octogenarian, you or a loved one may not need as much rigorous exercise as you think.

Best Exercise Equipment for Seniors?

Best Balance Exercises for Seniors

One in four Americans age 65+ fall every year, according to the NCOA. One of the best fall prevention strategies is daily balancing exercises. 


Tandem Stance: 

It’s the easiest way to test your balance. Practicing this daily will help you regain stability. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Stand tall with your feet together, and tighten your core muscles. Now, hold onto a wall, counter, or stable chair to maintain your balance. Keep your feet in a straight line, and imagine you’re on a balance beam. Hold for 30 seconds or as long as possible, switch feet, and start again. 

Single Leg Stand:

This exercise will help you perform your day to day activities (ADLs) with greater ease. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Stand tall with your feet together and engage your core muscles. Hold onto a wall or chair for balance as you lift your right foot off the floor so that you’re standing on your left foot. Imagine a string pulling the top of your head toward the sky. Tighten your core to avoid leaning too much on one side. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

Rock the Boat: 

INSTRUCTIONS: Stand to the side of the wall with your feet apart at the same distance as your hips. Press both feet into the ground firmly. Stand straight with your head level. Transfer your weight to your right foot and slowly lift your left leg off the ground. Hold here for however long feels comfortable (maximum of 30 seconds). 

senior woman doing a clock reach exercise in chair

Clock Reach

Although this can be done standing. You’ll probably want to grab a chair for this one. It’ll help you stay balanced as you build your balance and flexibility.

INSTRUCTIONS: Lift your right leg and extend your right arm to where it points right in front of you (12 o’ clock). Then, with your right leg still lifted and your left hand holding the back of the chair, gradually move your arm back to point directly behind you (6 o’ clock). 

Single Limb Stance with Arm: 

This balancing exercise will improve your physical coordination and help you grasp and move household items more effectively. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Stand with your feet together and arms at your side next to a chair. Lift your right hand over your head. Then, raise your left food off the floor. Hold in a static position for ten seconds and repeat it on the other side. 

senior citizen doing a side leg raise on yoga mat

Side Leg Raise

Once again, get a chair nearby and use it as a stable base point to hold your balance. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Stand behind the chair, feet slightly apart, and slowly lift your right leg to the side, keeping your back straight, your toes pointed forward, and your head looking directly ahead. Lower your right leg slowly and repeat the motion ten to 15 times for each side. 

Walk Heel to Toe: 

This doubles as a strength and balance exercise for your legs! You’ll be able to walk without falling. You can do this exercise anywhere. Just make sure you have around 10 feet of space available. 

INSTRUCTIONS: With your right foot heel touching your left foot toe, move your left foot in front of your right and put the weight on your heel. Then shift your weight to your toes. Repeat this with the other foot and walk for 20 steps. 

Marching in Place: 

Do it twice a day to improve your balance. As you get better, you’ll progress towards longer durations and do it with your eyes closed. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Lift your right knee as high as you can. Lower it, then lift the left knee. Do this 20 times. 

senior woman exercising in a chair


Toe Raises: 

Toe raises can be done twice a day, every day (any time of day). Whether you’re walking, sitting, eating, or watching TV, you can do it. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Feet flat on the floor, rest your hands on your lap or on the sides of your chair as you lift the toes on your right foot, keeping the left foot firmly planted on the ground. Hold it for 3 or 5 seconds, lower it, then repeat 10 to 15 times on each side. 

cartoon image of woman doing leg lifts in chair

Seated Leg or Knee Raises

INSTRUCTIONS: With your back on the ground, your arms straight by your side, engage your core, and lift your legs up slowly into the air. Then, slowly return to the starting position. If it’s too difficult, you can try bending your legs and simply lifting your knees.

Balancing Wand:

This is a great exercise to be done while in a seated position with limited mobility. You’ll just need to find a cane or stick. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Your goal is to keep the stick upright for as long as possible. Hold the bottom of the stick so that it is flat on the palm of your hand. Switch hands to work on both sides of the body. 

Best Strength Exercises for Seniors 

While Standing

back leg raises

Back Leg Raises

INSTRUCTIONS: Holding onto the back of a chair with both hands, lift one leg out behind you gradually but don’t go past the point of discomfort. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side, alternating legs. 

Wall Pushups

So long as you have a wall to stand near, you can benefit from this strength training! 

INSTRUCTIONS: Simply align your hips to the wall and have your hands stretched out as you slowly bend your elbows and begin to lean your body towards the wall until your nose almost touches it.  

Toe Lifts (Standing or Seated)

It’s easy to do and great for establishing more strength in your legs. 

INSTRUCTIONS: With a desk or chair nearby for support, put your toes up as you keep your legs firmly engaged. 

Calf Stretches (wall or floor):

This strength training exercise uses the back of a chair but can also be done by facing the wall or sitting on the floor while using a rubber elastic band!

INSTRUCTIONS: Hold onto the back of a chair, or use an elastic band if you happen to be seated, and keep your back heel firm on the floor, while the front knee is slightly bent; then push your hips forward until you feel a slight stretch in the calf muscle. Hold for 30 or 60 seconds. Take a break. Repeat.

Building Strength While Sitting in a Chair

Knee Extensions: 

INSTRUCTIONS: Keep both knees together and your feet on the floor. Straighten one leg out in front and hold it for a second, then slowly re-bend the leg, putting your foot back on the floor. Repeat for each leg. 

Seated Row: 

INSTRUCTIONS: Hold your arms directly out in front of you at shoulder level, thumbs pointed towards the ceiling. Draw your elbows back, squeezing the shoulder blades together until your upper arms line up with the sides of your torso. Extend your arms back to the starting position and repeat it a few times. 

Seated March:

INSTRUCTIONS: Lift your left leg with your knee bent as far as you can, then place it down carefully. Repeat it with the right leg and do a few lifts with each leg. 

Overhead Press: 

INSTRUCTIONS: Bend your arms up so that your wrists are by your shoulders, and slowly punch diagonally upwards and across the body with one arm while rotating your torso in the same direction. Return to the starting position, then switch to the other arm. Repeat this for both sides. 

Other Fun Ways to Exercise (Tips and Tricks) 

If you’ve been idle for a while, you’re probably wondering how to start exercising again. 

Pick a fun activity that involves some movement. You’ll hardly notice you’re exercising.

The easiest way to start an exercise regimen is by choosing the same time every day to practice. Do the bare minimum first. Take a short, brisk walk down the hall and back, or try lifting a 3 to 5-lb hand weight. 

Get creative!

You can make your own weights with household items: soup cans, bottles of water, books, or packets of rice or beans. 

Join Ivy Knoll’s Independent Living Community Today

Are you interested in joining our community and taking part in fun monthly activities? Get started today by submitting a contact form or scheduling the in-person tour of your new home