Physical Therapy Exercise Programs for Seniors

Getting older doesn’t have to mean slowing down. Desire Wellness physical therapy exercise programs for seniors can help you get back on track. Physical therapy exercise programs help to keep seniors mobile, healthy and strong. Here’s some interesting facts about the benefits of physical therapy exercise programs for seniors.


Why Are Physical Therapy Exercises Important for Aging Adults?

Did you know that one in four adults over the age of 50 do not engage in physical activity? Although this statistic is alarming, it makes sense considering how many older adults experience pain or difficulty with physical exercise. Many seniors also fear falling or getting injured during exercise.  Being sedentary, however, can cause more issues down the line for seniors. Recent studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can increase the death rate by 71%. Inactivity can increase your risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

If you’re a senior, here’s why it’s important to stay active:
  • Musculoskeletal changes occur as we age, such as the stiffness of joints or brittle bones. Exercise helps to combat or reduce these changes and helps you lead a better quality of life

  • Exercise will help you keep your strength and range of motion to perform everyday activities with ease (such as lifting your grandkids or opening a jar)

  • Inactivity can lead to muscle atrophy and poor balance, which can lead to falls and fractures. Exercise can help you improve your balance, which can help you avoid serious injuries.

  • An inactive lifestyle can lead to obesity-related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Leading an active lifestyle can prevent these diseases and also keep you feeling and looking healthier

  • Exercising regularly can help you continue living an independent life

  • Physical activity can help you reduce healthcare costs  – you’ll have fewer bills and less chronic medication

  • Strengthening your body can help you recover from an injury faster

How Much Exercise Should Seniors Do?

Although this varies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aged 65 and older aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity. You can break this up according to your exercise preference. Moderate exercise can include brisk walking, dancing, or sports, while vigorous-intensity activity can include running, jogging, or hiking.

Along with cardiovascular exercise, it is recommended that adults do a form of strength training exercise at least two days a week. Strength training involves using your body weight, weight machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands to help your body build and retain muscle, flexibility, and strength.

Senior Exercises

How do seniors stay active when they are experiencing pain or difficulty with mobility? Home exercises for elderly adults can help them manage pain, improve balance, and prevent excessive muscle loss, which naturally occurs as we age. Physical therapy exercises for the elderly can range from full-body balancing exercises to exercises targeting specific difficult areas such as the knees or hips.

If increasing the amount of exercise seems too much, start slow and try to get in some light activity whenever possible. No need to do a 100-mile run or 50 push-ups. You can walk around your home, work on your physical therapy exercises at home for seniors, or even clean to help you stay active. From there, you can eventually progress to more activity.

What Are the Most Common Injuries in the Elderly

If you suffered an injury as a senior, you are not alone. Injury due to falls is one of the leading causes of death among those who are 65 years of age or older. Muscular atrophy is the thinning of the muscle that occurs as we get older. Muscles and bones become less dense with age, and cartilage begins to wear and tear, which makes older adults more prone to injury.

Common injuries among the elderly
Common injuries among the elderly include:
  • Fractures: Fractures occur mostly after a fall due to muscular imbalances or osteoporosis, also known as a thinning of your bones. Common fractures include hip, forearm, or ankle fractures. These fractures, along with osteoporosis, can result in long-term damage to bones if not prevented and treated.
  • Shoulder Injuries: Shoulder injuries are quite common among seniors. These include rotator cuff tendinitis or impingement, osteoarthritis, and frozen shoulder. Shoulder pain and injury can greatly impact a senior’s quality of life and independence if not treated promptly.
  • Joint Injuries and Weaknesses: Joint pain is a common complaint among seniors as joints start to weaken. As we age, our joints change. Cartilage can start to break down, and our joints can turn stiff and inflamed, leading to pain. These joints and muscles need to be stabilized and strengthened to reduce deterioration.
  • Knee Injuries: It’s easy to obtain a knee injury at any age, but knee pain is relatively common as we get older. The reason is that cartilage can wear and tear, leading to osteoarthritis in joints. Another reason for knee injuries can come from meniscus tears from previous injuries. Many knee injuries, however, can be prevented and treated so you can get back in motion.
  • Lower Back Injuries: Back pain is likely the leading source of discomfort for seniors. Back injuries can be more than a nuisance and affect a senior’s ability to live independently. These injuries or pains can, however, be prevented and treated with proper care and intervention

Although issues such as muscular atrophy and osteoarthritis can make it difficult to do things that you used to do when you were younger, they do not have to leave you without your independence or mobility. Physical therapy exercises can help you get your range of (pain-free) motion back and are a great tool for preventative care.

What Are the Risk Factors for These Injuries

Although injuries can occur at any age, certain factors especially put the elderly at risk for injuries.

These factors include:

  • Obesity: If you are overweight, you may have more falls and fractures that cause injury. Knee pain can also be an issue due to the extra load on your knees.
  • Arthritis: Unfortunately, there’s no cure for arthritis, which can make you prone to injuries, but being active can help you keep arthritis pain and related injuries at bay
  • Not Following a Good Exercise Program and Nutrition Plan: It’s important to follow a healthy diet and do the right activities for your body to avoid breaking bones. Every senior is different and you need to speak to your doctor before you attempt a physical therapy program or start a new eating plan.
  • Lack of Expertise: Not having a professional on standby to help you with training and rehab programs means you’ll risk injuries that can occur with bad exercise form or incorrect exercises for your body.
Risk Factors

How Can Physical Therapy for Seniors Be Helpful for a Successful Recovery?

Physical therapy exercises for seniors are critical to recovery. After an accident or fall, a senior might be on bed rest for a few weeks, or even months. The extended period of inactivity can lead to muscle atrophy and weakness, and they may even be more susceptible to injuries and falls. Rehab programs can assist seniors in regaining lost strength and range of motion. Home exercises for elderly adults after a fall or injury are therefore essential to get them on their feet again.

benefits of physical therapy exercises
The benefits of physical therapy exercises for seniors include:
  • It addresses imbalances and instability following a fall and helps seniors avoid further injuries

  • Exercises help to reduce any post-operative pain seniors have or pain from chronic conditions

  • With pain management, seniors will be able to reduce or get rid of prescription drugs for pain – this will help them to avoid the potential side effects and the costs of healthcare

  • It can get seniors up and walking again faster so that they can live independently again

Four Categories of Physical Therapy Exercises for Adults

Considering joining a physical therapy exercise program? There are many types of physical therapy exercise programs for seniors but it is best to speak to your doctor and a doctor of physiotherapy who can both help you choose exercises that fit your lifestyle, diagnosis, and/or limitations.

The four common categories of physical therapy exercises for seniors include:

  • Range-of-Motion Exercises: Surgery, disease, and injury can all have an impact on your range of motion. Range-of-motion exercises can help you find movement again (and keep moving!). These exercises can include active stretching and hip flexor exercises.

  • Strengthening Exercises: Strengthening exercises are exercises with resistance, such as an exercise band or dumbbell. These kinds of exercises are great for strengthening bones as we age and helping seniors to prevent injuries.
  • Balance Exercises: Balancing exercises include basic movement patterns that help a senior regain their balance following an injury or surgery. These include assistance with walking, sitting, and climbing stairs.
  • Breathing Exercises: Breathing techniques can be used to assist a senior with movement or to provide anxiety relief. Breathing exercises include diaphragmatic breathing and abdominal breathing.
four common categories of physical therapy - Physical Therapy Exercise Programs for Seniors

Once you begin your exercise program, you’ll start to notice a great improvement in your physical fitness and well-being over time. Exercise helps to empower seniors, and it also helps to release endorphins (the happy chemicals in our bodies). As a result, you may notice that your mood improves and your general outlook on life too. It will just be uphill from there.


Yes, walking helps to improve balance and can also be used to improve your lower body strength. Walking also counts as aerobic exercise – the faster you move, the more calories you are likely to burn. Don’t be tempted to do a long-distance walk on your first day of activity if you have been on bed rest or inactive for a while. Add a few steps to your daily exercise routine to work on balance and stability, and gradually increase this amount as you go.

There are a lot of factors that can affect balance. It’s normal for nerve cells to decrease with the ageing process, which can affect your vision. Vision plays a big part in keeping our bodies stable. Certain diseases or illnesses can also affect our balance as we age (generally you’ll see this around 55–65 years). Balance exercises, however, can significantly improve your stability, regardless of your age.

You can benefit from most physical activities. The four categories of physical exercises explained above (balancing, breathing, strengthening, and range of motion exercises) are perfect for older adults as they help them with everyday activities. If you have specific muscular issues, you can choose exercises to help you strengthen a particular muscle. It is best to consult a professional who will help you choose the best exercises for your body.

Depending on your body, it may be best to avoid high-impact exercises such as lifting heavy weights or running post-surgery or following an injury. You should also practise good form and control, no matter which physical exercise you choose. A professional will help ensure you are using the right exercises and doing them correctly so that you can avoid injuries.

Strength training is crucial, regardless of age. As we age, we lose muscle tissue, which means a lower metabolism and body strength. Strength training will help you to regain and retain muscle mass, which will improve your strength, increase your metabolic rate, and help you with balance.

It’s never too late to get into shape and improve your health.  By exercising (and with a healthy diet), you will find yourself getting stronger, your blood sugar and cholesterol levels will start to drop, and your mood will begin to improve. Most importantly, you’ll move away from the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. 

You don’t have to hit the gym running. Start with small bursts of exercise and work your way up. Try incorporating a few steps into your day and eventually progressing to brisk walking or jogging. Don’t forget to do a few of your physical exercises each day.

Desire Wellness Physical Therapy Exercise Programs

Desire Wellness offers an affordable, personalized strength and wellness program for seniors looking to improve their balance, strengthen muscles, and complete everyday tasks. Our programs are designed by an experienced doctor of physical therapy team for individuals with known conditions.

Our founder, Dr. Marty Sanchez, first started our physical therapy programs as an easy and accessible professional plan for all ages. Apart from our physical programs, he also promotes research-based, effective, and efficient healthcare practices to assist seniors with mental health and weight loss/nutrition facts. Along with his wife, Dr. Emily Sanchez, and business partner Dr. Alona Stein, the Desire Wellness team provides consultation and coaching to many seniors in Alaska (and beyond) to help them to improve their quality of life, lose weight safely and transition to a maintenance program that works best for each person.

personalized strength and wellness program - Physical Therapy Exercise Programs for Seniors

If you don’t need a formal physical therapy assessment and want to address a general area of concern, boost your physical rehabilitation journey, or improve your general fitness level, we can help. Whether you are experiencing chronic pain or stiffness from an old injury, or just want to get moving again after long periods of being sedentary, our team can safely start you on the path to progress toward your goals.

Contact us today or visit our program page to learn more about our physical therapy exercises for seniors!