As we get older, the health of our minds and bodies naturally declines. This decline tends to happen faster in people who are physically inactive❄, which is why exercise is so important for seniors and older adults. Staying physically active helps to maintain a good quality of life by preserving physical and cognitive functions, and preventing injury❄❄. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) state that “regular physical activity, including aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity, is essential for healthy aging.” ❄
Remaining in their own home is also important for many people as they move through their golden years. Unfortunately, reductions in mobility and physical and cognitive functioning can lead to increased dependency on others, and a greater need for health services. All of this can result in a decrease in overall quality of life❄.
But, getting your body moving doesn’t require special knowledge, skills or equipment. Ultimately, physical activity is anything that involves using your muscles and expending energy. Simple activities and daily tasks like walking, housework and gardening are great ways of increasing or maintaining healthy levels of physical activity. That said, some good pieces of exercise equipment can help you do the most effective forms of physical activity and realize its greatest benefits.
As an older adult, knowing the best options for home exercise equipment should be a priority. However, different people obviously have different needs, and the right equipment for you will depend on your individual circumstances and personal preferences.
Resistance Training Equipment
Resistance training (i.e., exercises that maintain or build muscle strength) is an extremely important kind of exercise for older adults. Building and strengthening muscle helps to maintain normal mobility and reduce physical disability, thereby improving overall physical functioning❄. There is an extensive range of resistance exercise equipment that seniors and older adults can use to build muscle and strength. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also have a fantastic resource for older adults who want to begin a muscle-strengthening program, which you can access here.
Free weights are perhaps the most versatile equipment for resistance exercises. This is because they can be used to work virtually every muscle group, and there is a huge range of products to suit any individual’s needs. We recommend the following free weights.
Covered in a neoprene coating, these iron dumbbells are very comfortable and easy to use. They come in a set of 3 pairs, each of a different weight to accomodate all of the muscle-strengthening exercises you’ll want to do. You can also incorporate these dumbbells into other forms of exercises such as walking and jogging. The hexagonal shape means that they don’t roll, and they come with a stand for easy storage. There are also different total weight options available (18lb – 32lb total weight). These dumbbells are recommended for seniors and older adults who are new to resistance training and have a relatively low level of muscle strength.
You can read our detailed review of these adjustable weights here. These dumbbells are appropriate for intermediate to advanced muscle building, and better suited to individuals who already have a good level of muscle strength. They incorporate a more traditional dumbbell design, whereby iron weight plates are fixed to the bars with screw-on collars. Similar to the neoprene set above, these dumbbells are suitable for most muscle-strengthening exercises. As these are heavier than most neoprene / plastic covered sets, there is a greater risk of injury, especially if you try to do too much or use them with incorrect form.
Resistance bands are another extremely versatile kind of resistance equipment that can be used practically anywhere. They are bands made from elastic material that can be anchored to a spot, and then stretched to varying degrees in order to provide resistance against certain movements. The range of exercises that can be done with these is huge, and they tend to be relatively inexpensive.
The real advantage of resistance bands is that they provide ‘inertia-less’ resistance. This means that exercises done with resistance bands are easiest at the beginning of the movement, and get progressively harder as the elastic stretches more and more.
In contrast, exercises done with weights tend to be most difficult at the beginning of the movement as you must use the most effort to actually get the weights in motion (i.e., overcome the inertia created by gravity). ‘Inertia-less’ resistance tends to produce fewer injuries because it is easier to use correct technique and there is no heavy weight that you can drop on yourself. We especially recommend this option if you suffer from joint problems.
Here are our top 2 picks in resistance bands:
This is an extremely versatile set of resistance bands that includes soft-grip handles, ankle strap, door anchor, exercise chart and starter’s guide. Therefore, you’ll be able to do all kinds of muscle-strengthening exercises with these bad boys. The set has five 48 inch bands, with resistance levels that range from 2 – 30lb, so you’ll be able to use them effectively no matter what level of strength you’re currently at.
This set of 3 non-latex resistance bands is perfect for beginners. These are simple and easy to use for upper and lower body strengthening exercises, stretching and flexibility exercises, and rehabilitation for sore and injured muscles and joints.
*If you’re in the UK, Fitness Savvy have a great website that allows you to compare resistance training equipment.
Home gyms are perhaps the best resistance training option for older adults. They generally allow a very good range of exercises, and because many of the exercises are done seated, there is almost no risk of injury resulting from incorrect technique. In another article, we look at the best home gyms for almost anyone.
The drawbacks of home gyms are; 1) they can sometimes be difficult to assemble; 2) require a certain amount of room to be used properly; and 3) tend to be the most expensive kind of resistance training equipment. However, if a home gym is a viable option for you to use at home, it’s certainly worth considering.
Here are our top 2 home gym picks;
Check out our review of the BSG10x here. This home gym is sturdy, versatile and compact. It’ll fit in a small home workout space and offers an excellent range of upper body, core, and lower body exercises. It’s a very smooth and quiet machine, and it comes partially assembled (with all the most difficult tasks done for you), which is a real bonus.
Check out our review of the Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym here. This machine requires considerably more space than the BSG10x, and takes longer to assemble. That said, it is also well-built and offers a very good range of exercises. However, the main reason we recommend it for older adults is that this home gym uses Bowflex’s ‘Power Rods’ to create resistance during the exercises you do. These are basically flexible rods that provide inertia-less resistance, similar to resistance bands. This makes the exercises very smooth, and easy on the muscles and joints, especially the hips, knees and back.
Cardio equipment is excellent for getting high quality aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is the form of physical activity most strongly linked to positive health outcomes for people of all ages, especially seniors and older adults❄.
Research suggests that moderate- to high-intensity cardio exercise may reduce the risk of developing disorders such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer❄, and has been linked with biological markers that may slow the onset and progression of age-related cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia❄.
Aerobic exercise doesn’t necessarily require special equipment to complete. You can go for a long walk or jog, ride your bike, or play a sport like tennis, soccer or basketball (though these will obviously require you to have some equipment already). However, it’s not always possible or convenient to do these things. For example, if it’s very cold or hot outside, these activities are often not practical or safe. That’s where some good quality cardio equipment comes in handy.
A good treadmill is a fantastic option for seniors and older adults to get high-quality aerobic exercise in the comfort of their own home. Walking and jogging are two of the best ways to get a healthy amount of physical activity. Here are our top treadmill recommendations:
The ProForm 505 Treadmill is a compact and realtively inexpensive treadmill that is a perfect piece of home exercise equipment for seniors and older adults wanting to do aerobic exercise. It has a simple design that is easy to assemble (you only have to screw a few of the parts together), and perfect for light to moderate-intensity walking or jogging. It has a 0 – 10% incline range so that you can increase the intensity of your exercise gradually over time. It also folds up easily to save space.
One thing to be aware of with this treadmill is that ProForm have a partnership with the health-tracking software company, iFit. When you turn this treadmill on for the first time, it will ask you to ‘activate’ the machine through an iFit subscription (which costs money) before you can use it. This is not necessary. Simply hold the blue iFit button on the right of the display for a full 30 seconds, and you will bypass this step and be able to use your treadmill straight away.
This treadmill is higher-quality and more feature-packed than the Weslo Cadence, making it a good option for seniors and older adults who are looking to do more intense aerobic exercise. It has a well-cushioned deck to reduce impact and stress on your joints and muscles, and an LCD control screen with programs that will accomodate any level of fitness. This machine is quite heavy, so you may like to get the bundle that includes an equipment mat to prevent damage to your floors.
Cycling is another fantastic option for seniors and older adults as it allows for low-impact aerobic activity. Low-impact cardio is great for people with sore or injured backs, hips, knees and ankles. A great option for people who suffer from joint conditions like osteoarthritis is a recumbent exercise bike, which provides good back support while using it. Check out our top recommendations for upright exercise bikes and recumbent exercise bikes:
This exercise bike is great value for money. It’s an affordable, well-designed and sturdy piece of equipment that will give you a solid cardio workout, no matter how fit or unfit you are. It has 8 levels of resistance that will make any workout as easy or difficult as you like. It also comes with a heart rate monitor, so you can track how hard you’re working, and it folds up for easy storage. We think you’ll really enjoy using this exercise bike.
This is basically the recumbent version of the upright exercise bike above. With most of the same features, it’s a solid piece of home exercise equipment for seniors who require back support while cycling. This recumbent bike also folds up for easy storage, and is great value for money.
This is a fully recumbent bike and is one of the highest quality on the market. Containing lots of great features, this is certainly a more serious recumbent bike than the one above. It has 25 resistance options, an LCD system to track performance, 29 digital programs to help users of any level of fitness achieve their goals, and a USB charging port for your tablet or smartphone. Extremely comfortable and quiet, this is a top-of-the-range recumbent exercise bike designed for those serious about increasing their levels of physical activity. It does require assembly, which will take two people 45 min – 1 hr. FYI this recumbent bike was the #1 pick in our list of best recumbent exercise bikes for seniors.
Elliptical and Arc Trainers
Elliptical and Arc trainers are both stationary machines that provide a low-impact simulation of walking, running or climbing stairs. The difference between these two types of machines is that Arc trainers produce what is known as an ‘arcuate path of motion’, while Elliptical trainers (also known as cross-trainers) produce an elliptical path of motion. We are discussing both machines together, because both are gait simulators that are very similar in they way that they work. You can see the difference between how these two machines work by checking out this video on elliptical trainers, and this video on arc trainers.
Arc and Elliptical trainers have two major advantages:
- They are both low-impact cardio machines which place significantly less stress on your joints than walking and running on solid ground, or climbing actual stairs. For this reason they are perfect for people suffering from osteoarthritis and other bone / joint disorders.
- Both types of machines often have handle-levers that force your arms to do some of the work while using them, and so provide an upper and lower body workout that is more intense and well-rounded.
Here are our top Elliptical and Arc trainer picks:
Much like the Schwinn Recumbent bike above, this Elliptical is a very high quality machine. It’s also feature-packed to make your workout as enjoyable as possible. It includes an LCD screen control system to track progress, multiple programs to help you reach your fitness goals, and a large range of resistance options to suit all strength and fitness levels. It also has a USB charging port for your tablet or smartphone, which can sit on the built-in media shelf, speakers for your music and a 3-speed fan to keep you cool. This is an all-round great piece of home exercise equipment for aerobic workouts.
Arc trainers are trademarked by CYBEX, so all genuine machines will be of this brand. The 750A is a very sturdy machine, that will give you an excellent workout by combining the best elements of a skier, elliptical trainer, and stair-climber. Admittedly, this is a very expensive machine. If you are looking for something similar that is much cheaper, then consider one of these Gazelle Supreme Step Machines.
Both of the Elliptical and Arc trainers above are heavy, so if you decide to go with one of them we recommend purchasing an equipment mat to place beneath it.
Stretching and Flexibility Equipment
Stretching and flexibility exercises are extremely important as we get older, as they help to maintain the range of motion that is necessary for proper levels of physical activity and exercise, and daily living❄. You should aim to do stretching and flexibility exercises on every day you complete either aerobic or resistance training activities. This will help you minimise the risk of injury while exercising, and help you perform those exercises correctly.
You don’t necessarily need to purchase any special equipment to complete stretching and flexibility exercises. Most exercises can be done standing, lying or sitting, and for those that require lying or sitting on the ground, you can simply place a towel or blanket down to make you more comfortable. If you find this to be uncomfortable, or any other way undesirable, you might like to try a yoga mat or exercise mat.
This latex tubing helps to strengthen and rehabilitate the hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder through a variety of bending and twisting exercises. It is perfect for seniors and older adults to stretch and strengthen their hands, arms and shoulders prior to doing resistance training. It comes in four different resistance levels; extra light (yellow), light (red), medium (green), and heavy (blue).
Fitness balls (also called exercise balls, Swisse balls, and balance balls) are a really versatile piece of equipment. Not only are they great for stretching and flexibility exercises, they can also be used for a good resistance training workout. Doing flexibility exercises with a fitness ball is a unique way of getting your daily stretching done. There are a huge number of different fitness balls available, however we recommend the 65cm Black Mountain fitness ball. It is a high-quality, anti-slip and anti-puncture fitness ball at a very reasonable price. Check out this video for some great stretches you can do with a fitness ball.
If you’re after something more serious check out our review of the Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer. This is a static stretching machine that makes flexibility exercises easy and effective, and will help you get into a good routine with your stretches. It is a bit pricey, but if flexibility is a key priority for you and you need something to make it as comfortable and pain-free as possible, then this might be the thing for you.
Well, there you have it; the best home exercise equipment for seniors. You can use any or all of these pieces of equipment in the comfort of your home to maintain or increase your level of physical activity as you get older.
Remember, it’s important to stay physically fit and healthy in order to reduce the risk of developing numerous age-related physical and cognitive problems. Furthermore, increasing your levels of physical activity can help reduce the severity of many problems that may have already developed.
Everyday activities and tasks like walking, gardening, housework, and games and sports are a great start in making sure you are doing enough physical activity to maintain or improve your health. However, if you want to get the most benefit from exercise, try to ensure that you’re doing a sufficient amount of aerobic exercise (i.e., cardio), muscle-strengthening activities (i.e., resistance training), and stretching and flexibility exercises.
In order to promote and maintain health in seniors and older adults, the ACSM and AHA recommend the following❄:
- Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise lasting at least 30 mins on five days of each week, or high-intensity exercise lasting at least 20 mins on three days of each week. These can be combined to achieve the required amount.
- Activities that maintain or increase muscle strength and endurance for a minimum of 2 non-consecutive days each week. The most effective resistance training for older adults is that which uses 10 – 15 repetitions (repeated movements of each exercise). You should also aim for 8 – 10 exercises per muscle or muscle group.
- To maintain the flexibility necessary for physical activity and daily living, you should aim to do at least 10 mins of stretching and flexibility activities on two days of each week. You should also do dynamic stretching and flexibility exercises before and after completing aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Ultimately, remaining fit and healthy as we grow older ensures that we’re able to maintain a good quality of life. Make sure you’re getting good quality exercise and, if necessary, using the right equipment for the job.
Thanks for reading the article. Please leave any thoughts or comments you have in the comments section below.
As always, all the best with your home workouts. Remember, when it comes to our health and fitness, we can make the effort or we can make excuses, but we can’t make both.
THFF (The Home Fit Freak)