As the years add up, we often feel the effects of our daily lives in our bodies more and more. That less-than-ergonomic desk set up? Our back’s gonna tell us about it. All the time spent driving around in a car? Our hips won’t lie about how much they hate it.
One key to making our bodies less cranky is to keep them moving. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adults over age 65 get in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week to help keep muscle loss, chronic illness, and mobility issues at bay. One particularly smart way to get in those workouts is by using resistance bands. That’s why Crunch fitness instructor Liz Fichtner put together this 14-minute workout of resistance band exercises for seniors for Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month Club. Trust us: It will kick your mobility, balance, and posture into gear!
Benefits of resistance band exercises for seniors
They’re gentle on the joints
Resistance bands are one of Fichtner’s favorite ways to help older adults improve their muscle strength and mobility without being too harsh on the body. “It gives a little bit,” she says.
As Floery Mahoney, founder of fitness studio Board30, told Well+Good about the benefits of resistance bands, “The smooth and constant tension is much better for your joints and even helps strengthen your joints, the more you use them.”
Heather Milton, MS, RCEP, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, points to resistance bands’ versatility as a major perk of using this tool. The band can be anchored on different parts of your body, like arms or thighs or feet, opening up possibilities for more rotational and lateral movements, she once explained to Well+Good. That means you can hit more of those tricky-to-target muscles that improve balance and posture.
They make strength training more accessible
These flexible bands are a knockout for ease of use. Available in varying amounts of resistance, you can choose the band that works for your body and strength for each exercise. And at a low price point, these at-home workout tools remove a barrier to entry some may face—no need to join a gym or schedule a class, you can follow along at home with Fichtner for access to targeted fitness. Pair this quick, effective workout with a walk, bike ride, or your favorite cardio exercise to get in a well-rounded fitness session.
“I hope this leaves you feeling more mobile, feeling taller with that posture, and your balance is making you feel really powerful,” Fichtner says.
At-home resistance band exercises for seniors
Equipment needed: A resistance band in a weight that best suits your needs. Bands typically come in very light, light, medium, heavy, and extra-heavy options. You may also benefit from having a yoga block or pillow to sit on. “The yoga block helps my knees drop a little lower and it gives me some height,” Fichtner says.
Who is this for? Seniors looking to increase their mobility, posture, and balance
Format: Fichtner leads us on a resistance band flow with simple exercises done while using the resistance band.
Arm lift side bends
Inhale, with the resistance band held taut between your hands, and lift it up above your head. Then, side bend to the left. Inhale through the nose, then side bend to the opposite side. Lower the arms back down to the floor.
Above-head arm lifts
With the resistance band still held taut between your hands with the arms extended, lift the resistance band above and just slightly behind your head. “Hold it where it is sticky,” Fichtner says. “Hold, take a breath, then bring the resistance band down.” Repeat at least two more times.
To take it to the next level, lift the resistance band up and, instead of holding, bring your arms behind your head and as far down as you can in one fluid movement, bringing your shoulder blades together.
Once you’re done, put the band down on the floor and take a break with a few gentle shoulder circles in each direction.
Arm lifts and shoulder rotations
With the resistance band above your head and your arms wide, take your left bicep to your left ear, and right arm pointing straight out to the side. Then, take your right shoulder and bring it forward so you feel an internal rotation and bring that hand behind your back. “This gives you an internal and external rotation of your shoulders,” Fichtner says. “This is going to help with that mobility.”
Switch sides, and repeat.
Finish with those gentle shoulder rolls in both directions again.
This movement helps with spinal flexion. On hands and knees in a tabletop position, with fingers spread wide, wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips, drop your belly and look forward. Then tuck the pelvis and chin, push the floor away and round your upper back. Repeat a few times, then add in some lateral movement, making easy circles with the ribs to your left and right.
Standing resistance band forward push
Grab the resistance band again and stand up. Thread the band behind your back right at your bra line or scapula. With the band in a u-shape around your torso, grab the ends and wrap them around your hands, finding the appropriate resistance. Then with your arms bent at 90-degrees, round your upper body and push your arms forward. As you gradually come back to standing, bringing your elbows back to your body, feel the shoulder blades engage. Repeat four more times.
“This is really great for your posture,” Fichtner says. “This will help you find where you are rounding, and how to bring your shoulder blades together.”
Resistance side reach
Place the resistance band behind your body at your glute area, and then wrap the ends around your hands with your palms forward, pinkies resting right by your hips.
Pay attention to how straight your arms get. “Most of us seniors can’t extend our arms to a full extension,” Fichtner says. “If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Eventually you will be about to.”
With palms forward, extend one arm at a time outward to the side, then bring it back. Think of moving down and away. Switch sides, and continue alternating.
“Do you feel longer, taller, do you feel more in control?” Fichtner asks. After you try both arms individually, move into extending both arms at once.
Place your resistance band under your feet while holding the ends in each hand. Gently shift your weight to your right foot and slide the left foot a few inches away, then slide it back. Repeat a handful of times.
Next, try lifting the foot, setting it down, then bringing it back to your neutral stance. Eventually, progress to pulsing it out to the side a few times before bringing it back to center.
Switch sides and repeat the pattern, starting with the slides.
A modified lunge with the resistance band, this move really targets balance. Place the band behind your bra line again with the ends wrapped around your hands. Step back into a lunge, while simultaneously pushing the band forward with your arms. Then come back to standing. Alternate sides and repeat for about 30 seconds. Pushing the band forward helps hone in on core stability.