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Health & Wellness, Lifestyle

Tips for Staying Active While Sheltering in Place

It’s widely known and generally accepted that exercise and staying active are good for you. But with our mobility limited by stay-at-home orders and the need to maintain social distance, finding exercises seniors can do at home with little or no equipment takes some thought. But staying active at home can be done, and it’s well worth the effort. Staying active through physical activity while sheltering in place offers important benefits for older adults including:

  • Improving balance, posture and flexibility
  • Helping to prevent falls
  • Decreasing pain and emotional stress
  • Maintaining muscle mass
  • Increasing bone density
  • Helping control chronic disease symptoms

Staying active at home and performing the types of exercises seniors can do at home is more than a smart approach during times of social distancing — it’s a key to maintaining physical activity even after these restrictions are lifted. Not only does exercising at home help you feel better, it helps older adults handle many of the routine daily tasks more easily.

senior woman lifts a light weight



There are certain foundational exercises seniors can do at home that can improve strength, mobility and balance to help them stay independent longer. Here are four of the most important exercises seniors should do every day at home:


For many seniors, getting up and down is a big obstacle that often leads to falls. Sit-to-stands strengthen your knees and hips and help your stability.

Standing in front of a stool or chair, face away, like you’re preparing to sit. Sit back and touch your hips to the seat, then pushing through all four corners of your feet, lift yourself back to standing. Repeat this squatting motion ten times. You can hold on to a wall or another support for this exercise and work your way up to performing the exercise without holding anything.

Tandem stance

This is an excellent exercise that seniors can do at home to significantly improve balance, posture, core strength and stability.

Like a circus tightrope walker, hold your arms out straight from your sides, keeping them parallel to the floor. Step one foot in front of you so that your front foot’s heel is against your back foot’s toes. Your feet should be in a straight line. Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as you can, then switch the position of your feet and repeat.

Farmer’s walk

This variation on everyday walking has you holding a light weight in each hand. It strengthens your core and upper body, improves hand strength and grip, and helps you handle many of the tasks you encounter throughout the day. 

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Your arms hang down by your sides, hands each holding a light weight. Tense your core and slowly walk forward. Keep your spine, neck and head straight. Walk for 30 seconds, or as long as you can, then walk back in the opposite direction.

Single-leg stand

This simple exercise improves balance for older adults and helps with everyday actions like walking and climbing stairs. All it requires is standing on one leg.

Stand straight with your eyes looking forward. Extend your left leg out in front of you, a few inches up off the ground. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds, and then repeat with your opposite leg. If you feel unsteady, stand next to a chair. Your long-term goal should be to stand on one leg for up to a minute without holding on to a chair for support.

senior man stretches on a yoga mat


In addition to balance and flexibility exercises, strength exercises are also important. Strength training in older adults helps maintain muscle mass, improve posture and stability, and increase bone density, mobility and functional performance. There are dozens of exercises you can do at home to build strength. Here’s an easy routine that only takes a few minutes.


Shoulder and upper back stretch

  1. Bend your right arm, raising it so your elbow is chest level and your right fist is near your left shoulder.
  2. Place your left hand on your right elbow and gently pull your right arm across your chest.
  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat with the opposite arm.

Ankle rotations

  1. Seated in a chair, lift your right foot off the floor and slowly rotate your foot 5 times to the right and then 5 times to the left.
  2. Repeat with the left foot.

Neck stretch

  1. Stand or sit with your back straight, head facing front.
  2. Keeping your head level, turn it slowly to the right until you feel a slight stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the movement to the left.
  4. Repeat the sequence 3 to 5 times.

Upper back stretch

  1. Sit straight in a chair with feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold arms up and out in front at shoulder height, palms facing outward, the backs of your hands pressed together.
  3. Relax your shoulders so they’re not scrunched up near your ears.
  4. Reach your fingertips forward until you feel a stretch.
  5. Stop and hold for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 to 5 times.


Abdominal contractions

  1. Lie on the floor on a mat or carpet.
  2. Keep your back flat, your knees raised and your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Take a deep breath and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  4. Hold for 3 breaths and then release the contraction.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Wall pushups

  1. Stand facing the wall, about 3 feet away. Feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean forward, place hands flat on the wall in line with your shoulders.
  3. Keep your spine straight, not sagging or arched.
  4. Lower your body toward the wall, then push back.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Pelvic tilts

  1. Lower one knee to the floor.
  2. Place the opposite foot flat on the floor in front of you.
  3. Take a deep breath, tighten your buttocks and tilt your hips slightly forward.
  4. Hold for a 3-count.
  5. Now tilt your hips back and hold for 3 seconds.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder blade squeeze

  1. Stand straight, eyes front, hands at your sides.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades back toward one another.
  3. Keep your shoulders down, not hunched up, for 3 seconds.
  4. Release and repeat 8 to 12 times.
  5. You can perform this exercise seated if you prefer.

Toe taps

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keeping your heels flat, lift your toes high enough to feel your shin muscles working.
  3. Repeat 20 times.

Heel raises

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keeping your toes and balls of your feet flat, lift your heels.
  3. Repeat 20 times.

Knee lifts

  1. Sit in a chair with your arms resting, but not pressing on the armrests.
  2. Contract the quadriceps muscles and lift your leg.
  3. Your knee and the back of your thigh should be 2 or 3 inches off the seat.
  4. Pause for 3 seconds and slowly lower your leg.
  5. Complete 8 to 12 repetitions and repeat with the opposite leg.

senior woman sits on an exercise ball



Doing these simple exercises at home, using little or no equipment, will make a noticeable difference in your life and health, especially while we’re all stuck inside. At Querencia at Barton Creek, we take your health and wellness seriously. In fact, our community has been named a Center for Successful Aging by the nationally renowned Masterpiece Living® initiative. Residents here have the resources to explore wellness in all its dimensions – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. And we’re happy to serve as your information resource during these uncertain times of the COVID-19 crisis. Start by discovering more about our culture of wellness and feel free to reach out to us with questions.

Silver Sneakers and Nurse Next Door highlight other great activities and exercises for older adults, check them out!

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