Special Guest Post: Upper Body Workouts for Seniors

Proactive Seniors is delighted to welcome our guest blogger, Emily Johnson. Emily is the Founder and Creative Director of StrongerU Senior Fitness. In this article, she shares some tips on how to improve your upper body strength – no gym required!

In order to be our healthiest self, Canada’s physical activity guidelines recommend that older adults achieve:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week;
  • 2 days of muscle and bone strengthening exercises per week; and
  • Activity to enhance balance and prevent falls.

One of the easiest ways to achieve this guideline is through the simple activity of walking! Spend at least 150 minutes walking at a brisk pace per week and you will also be checking the box on at least two days per week of lower body muscle and bone strengthening as well as an activity that prevents falls and enhances balance. All you have left now are some upper body muscular strengthening exercises. Here are some at home exercises that can be done using simple household items:

NOTE: Be sure to speak with your doctor prior to starting any new exercise routine.

Biceps Curls: This exercise targets the Biceps muscles on the front of your arms. You use these muscles most when carrying groceries or shopping bags or carrying a watering can in the garden. Complete 8-12 repetitions of this exercise twice per week.

You can use a variety of household items to complete this exercise- soup cans, water, shampoo, or condiment bottles, laundry detergent, and more. Aim to pick an item where you can complete 8-12 repetitions of the movement below and the last 3 repetitions are difficult to complete. If you easily complete 12 repetitions, it’s time to find a heavier item.

  1. Start with your arm down by your side.
  2. Breathe out and bring the palm of your hand/item to your shoulder.
  3. Breathe in and return to the starting position.

Tips: This exercise can be completed seated or standing. If standing, stand with feet under hips, a slight bend in the knees, abdominals engaged, and shoulders down and back.

Chair Push ups: This exercise targets the Triceps muscles on the back of your arms. You use these muscles when getting out of a chair, putting the lid on a coffee can, and putting your favourite china out for dinner. Complete 8-12 repetitions of this exercise twice per week.

For this exercise, all you need is a sturdy chair with arms, ideally placed against a wall for support.

  1. Start seated in the chair with your hands on the arm rests and elbows at about a 90-degree angle.
  2. Without using your legs, breathe out and press into the chair to straighten your arms.
  3. Breathe in and slowly return to the starting position.

Tips: On the first try, you may not be able to lift yourself out of the seat. That’s ok! Pressing into the chair will still help to strengthen your triceps and soon you’ll be able to rise. When you do rise, leave a slight bend in your elbows at the peak of the lift.

Wall Push ups: This exercise targets the chest, back, and shoulder muscles. You use these muscles when opening a door (chest/shoulders), picking up a grocery bag from the floor (back), and more. Complete 8-12 repetitions of this exercise twice per week.

  1. Start standing an arm lengths distance from the wall.
  2. Place your hands on the wall directly in front of your shoulders.
  3. Next, move your hands one hand length wider and one hand length lower – this ensures you are in the proper position once you bend your arms.
  4. Breathe out and bend your arms to a 90-degree angle.
  5. Breathe in and return to the starting position.

Tips: Be sure you’re wearing non-slip shoes. Move your feet closer to the wall to make the exercise easier and move your feet further away from the wall to make it more difficult. When making the exercise more difficult, always keep your hands on the wall as you move your feet back. Once into position, be sure to drop your hands down a little lower on the wall.

Shoulder blade squeeze: This exercise targets the muscles of your upper and mid-back. This exercise is great for maintaining a tall, upright posture. Complete 8-12 repetitions of this exercise twice per week.

For this exercise, you’ll need a scarf, towel, or the belt from a robe as a makeshift ‘band’.

  1. Secure your ‘band’ around a sturdy hold such as a handrail. Be sure the location you choose is safe for exercising.
  2. With one hand on either side of the ‘band’, breathe out and squeeze the shoulders together for 2 seconds.
  3. Breathe in and relax.

About the author:

Emily Johnson is the Founder and Creative Director of StrongerU Senior Fitness. She is on a mission to innovate and elevate senior fitness globally. Emily spends her time supporting and empowering recreation, fitness, and wellness professionals to deliver quality, safe, effective, and engaging fitness experiences. She has trained over 400 senior fitness instructors across Canada, the US, and Australia. Learn more about StrongerU Senior Fitness here: https://www.strongeruseniorfitness.com/

Are you looking for ways to stay active and safe in your home? The Proactive Seniors team of experts in aging well includes Sarah Graham, Physiotherapist and Marni Tory, Occupational Therapist. Contact us for more information!