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Activities for the Body

Encourage your older adult to try walking from one end of the house to another or, if they're up to it and the weather is nice, take a jaunt around the block, through the mall or to the gym!

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Activities that can help seniors maintain and improve their physical health.

Below are a few ideas for an active body.

Power Grip

Having the strength to grip can impact the everyday lives of seniors. Seniors can do this squeezing exercise with a tennis ball while watching TV.

Hold a tennis ball or other small rubber or foam ball in one hand.

  1. Slowly squeeze the ball as hard as you can and hold it for 3-5 seconds.
  2. Relax the squeeze slowly.
  3. Repeat 10 – 15 times.
  4. Repeat 10 – 15 times with the other hand.
  5. Repeat 10 – 15 times more with each hand.

Incorporate this skill by opening a jar of pickles or olives. Or suggest playing fetch with the dog before naptime. Keep hands and fingers limber by folding towels or the laundry.

Download a PDF of this activity (PDF 143 kB)

Walking Strong

The Leg Curl is designed to help make walking and climbing stairs easier for a senior. Here's what to do:

  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Lift one leg straight back without bending the knee or pointing the toes. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out, slowly bringing the heel up toward the buttocks as far as possible.
  3. Bend only from the knee, keeping hips still. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
  4. Hold position for 1 second.
  5. Breathe in, slowly lowering the foot to the floor.
  6. Repeat 10 – 15 times.
  7. Repeat 10 – 15 times with the other leg.
  8. Repeat 10 – 15 more times with each leg.

Source: National Institute on Aging.

Download a PDF of this activity (PDF 172 kB)

Leg Strengthening

This activity helps strengthen thighs and may reduce symptoms of arthritis of the knee. Here's what to do:

  1. Sit in a sturdy chair with back supported by the chair. Only the balls of feet and toes should rest on the floor. Put a rolled bath towel at the edge of the chair under the thighs for support. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out and slowly extend one leg in front as straight as possible, but don't lock the knee.
  3. Flex the foot to point toes toward the ceiling. Hold that position for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in, slowly lowering the leg back down.
  5. Repeat 10 – 15 times.
  6. Repeat 10 – 15 times with other leg.
  7. Repeat 10 – 15 more times with each leg.

As the senior progresses, he may want to add ankle weights. Encourage your older adult to try walking from one end of the house to another or, if they're up to it and the weather is nice, take a jaunt around the block, through the mall or to the gym!

Source: National Institute on Aging.

Download a PDF of this activity (PDF 147 kB)

Circle Scarves

If a senior is confined to a chair for much of the day, try to find ways to encourage movement in her daily life. All you need are two colorful scarves:

  1. With a scarf in each hand, extend arms straight out in front.
  2. Make circles in the air with scarves, going from small to large circles.
  3. Continue on with the circles by going down from large to small.

To help a senior, sing or count to the beat. It will make loved ones feel as though they've participated in an exercise plan.

Download a PDF of this activity (PDF 160 kB)

Day At The Beach

This mobility activity can be made easier for seniors with eyesight problems if the family caregiver describes the actions:

  1. Hold a beach ball at chest level in both hands.
  2. Stretch arms out straight.
  3. Then pull arms back to the chest.
  4. Repeat while counting to 10.

Put this skill to work while doing something a senior enjoys. When watching TV or listening to the radio, march to the beat of a favorite song on TV or the radio while in this sitting position.

Download a PDF of this activity (PDF 147 kB)

Activity Calendar and Booklet

Track activity progress with the printable calendar and activities booklet.

View the Calendar and Activities Booklet.

Need ideas for activities and other tools? Visit our Resources page.

The Home Instead network strives to educate and inform seniors and their families on a wide variety of topics to assist in improving the quality of life for seniors. The instruction and information presented on this Web site and in the downloadable activity pages is in no way intended as a substitute for medical consultation, and neither Home Instead, Inc. nor the Home Instead network warrant or guarantee that participating in the recommended activities will increase a senior's physical activity and/or achieve desired results. Participation in any exercise program is not without its risks and may result in injury. To reduce the risk of injury, seniors should consult their doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. Home Instead, Inc. and the locally owned Home Instead businesses expressly disclaim any liability from and in connection with participation in the activities described herein and in the activity downloads.

Last revised: March 3, 2011

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 7, 2012 at 10:34 am | Posted by Beth Schuelke

    In my past experiences, I have found that it is much easier to encourage anyone to do something if you can do it together. I took up knitting to encourage my fiance's grandmother to knit again. It worked her hands and mind, gave us something new to talk about and eventually lead to more activity. First she taught me how to cable, then we needed more yarn so we started taking yarn shopping trips... We ended up making a baby blanket for her great grandson. Best of all we both had a blast!


  2. March 7, 2011 at 9:18 am | Posted by Susan

    Hi. My mom is now in skilled nursing. While she was living with my sister and myself, she decided that she no longer wanted to try to walk, so therefore, we were forced into this decision. She became weaker and weaker, lost weight, lost her balance and fell and now we cannot bring her back. As I read this article about activity, it occurred to me that it is so very important for older people to exercise if even just a little bit. Mom got so that she would let us wait on her and now everyone waits on her. She gave up after Daddy died and I guess that was the beginning of this spiralling down.


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