The best exercise equipment for seniors is the equipment that builds our strength and does not overtax our joints. Of course!
But even more important, we want exercise equipment that we enjoy using!
Joints! That’s where we ALL seem to suffer as we age. Why? Very often because these things wear in a way that the muscles don’t.
Our muscles are very adaptable. If you don’t destroy any of them, they are usually very accommodating in regaining strength and usefulness.
Our joints can recuperate and heal and get stronger. But, with not nearly the ease that our muscles do.
There are a number of pieces of exercise equipment for seniors that make our exercising easier, more enjoyable, and more productive.
Exercise is all about feeling great physically and emotionally, and moving easily throughout the day. This is what the best exercise equipment for seniors should help us accomplish.
Our muscles are what give us strength. Making your muscles exercise not only strengthens them, it strengthens our bones too. And, to some degree our joints.
As young people we can put all kinds of stress on our bodies and recuperate quite well with just a night’s sleep.
By the time we reach 60, 70, 80, 90 we’ve normally messed up our joints to some degree. So, when we do strengthening exercises, we have to safeguard them as best as we can.
For example: I used to be a distance runner and bicycle racer. Over the years I wore out a bit. My back can no longer take the shock of running or the pull from the abnormal seating position of bicycle racing.
I’m 69. So, I’m never going to be winning any races here anymore.
STILL, nothing every gave me the immense feeling of well being that these two sports did. And, I decided I wanted to feel that good again.
You didn't know that. Did you?
Nobody really does.
I have a slight bone malformation at the base of my spine. I’m a bit crooked to the right. You'd never know it today because about 12 years ago I found a most wonderful coach who understood how to correct this with specific exercises.
You’d never know it by looking at me now. But, at age 57 I was so crooked that I really could not stand straight. I looked a bit like Quasimoto (the hunch back of Notre Dame, from the movie). I was a mess!
I have a genetic malformation in my spine. So, it was a little, just a little, crooked to start with. Before I understood this I used to exercise like everyone else.
That was all fine and dandy until one day I just couldn’t straighten up and everything in my back hurt.
I was lucky enough to be referred to a physical trainer (named Alfred) who understood the back and how to rebalance the muscles so that movement was the most balanced.
When he looked me over (I was 57 at the time) he said he didn’t know if he could help me. My musculature was so out of balance that when he examined me he though I had had some muscles removed. I looked a bit like Quasimoto and didn’t even realize it.
I just knew I couldn’t really stand straight or sit comfortably in any position. And I hurt almost all the time.
Alfred was an ex bodybuilder from Austria.
Alfred had me using some very simple exercise equipment that was also very inexpensive. A couple of 5 pound dumbbells, a big ball, and some exercise bands. I will explain these items in more detail later in the article. These items are some of the best exercise equipment for seniors like you and me. The cost for all of it? Under $60.
After 6 months of training with Alfred I was feeling and looking pretty darn god. Alfred looked at me after those first 6 months and told me he was amazed. That I was one of his most successful students ever. Mostly because he thought I was so far gone that I would never be even close too “normal” again. I was possibly past functional repair.
He also told me I was one of the most dedicated students he ever had. Yes, I did my best every session and never missed a scheduled day of exercising or my once a month session with him. And, that, along with the proper exercises, was the key to my success. Dedication to your program can be the key to your success also.
Well, his guidance, AND, my daily dedication answered my prayers. I became quite normal again. In less than 1 year.
That is how powerful correct regular exercising can be.
I remember telling Alfred that I was so wanting to run again. I loved the way it made me feel. The natural high it brought was so wonderful. And, when I was able to run, I always felt good for the entire day. PLUS, I never got fat.
Now, with my lower back worn out, it was too painful to do. Even for a quarter mile.
Alfred told me that besides my corrective exercises, I could start exercising on an elliptical machine. I had no idea what these were. He explained how they worked and said they some of the absolute best exercise equipment for seniors as well as everyone else.
At that time I lived in a tiny apartment. Even if I wanted to spend the $1,000 - $2,000 that a good home elliptical machine would cost, I told him there was just enough room for the elliptical machine OR my bed.
Alfred told me that ALL the gyms in town had elliptical machines because they were very popular.
He explained how my leg muscles would get a work out every bit as good as a run could provide, BUT, it would not pound on my back and knee joints the way running does.
Also, the machine can be adjusted from very easy to quite strenuous. Even as you are working on it.
Alfred explained that I could join any of the local gyms that had elliptical exercise machines and see if they were good for me.
So, I joined the nearby 24 Fitness gym for $29 a month on a special offer. (There are now $16 monthly memberships at Planet Fitness)
The elliptical machines there were top of the line. About $3,300 each. And, I came to love them. And, the staff there agreed that they were the best exercise equipment for seniors who previously enjoyed running.
I got so out of breath in just 5 minutes the first time. I was terribly out of condition. But, when I went home my back felt as good as if I had not run at all. Wow! I was hooked. I couldn't wait to use the machine again.
Eventually I was doing 30 minutes a session 2 or 3 times a week. That was about 2 miles of “running exercise” per session. No back problems.
Today I own my own elliptical machine. Not the $3,300 one. But, a very nice one. The cost? $2,000. But, there are good home machines out there for under $900 if you decide you want to own your own.
The best exercise equipment for seniors includes a number of similar machines which allow the muscles to work hard and keep the joints more comfortable.
The elliptical machine is, we feel, the most important and best exercise equipment for seniors because it works our large leg muscles, gives a great cardio workout (for the heart), exercises the arms and shoulders, and spares the lower back from the shock of running and even the shock of walking on pavement.
Now, before we go back to equipment that you’ll either need a room for and a fairly large budget for, let’s talk about the best exercise equipment for seniors that is:
Never ask a salesman what the best exercise equipment for seniors is, because he will tell you you need
everything they sell. Same thing if you call exercise equipment manufacturers.
In Reality: You don’t NEED any exercise equipment to exercise. But, some of it can be fun, extremely helpful, and very beneficial. Especially if you have compromised areas like I do.
There, however, are a number of very inexpensive items that can be of great benefit to almost every senior. And, are these things are fun to use.
So, let’s take a look at the best exercise equipment for seniors that won’t “break the bank”:
FIRST: The single best exercise equipment for seniors is a good pair of stable gym or running shoes. Yes. Shoes matter. You want to be sure you have good support for every exercise you do. Whether it be walking, running, lifting weights, doing calisthenics, etc.
Proper footwear gives stability.
If you can’t afford good athletic shoes right now (about $100 - $150), wear the sturdiest sneakers or shoes you have. The kind that tie snugly (not loafers). And, make sure the heels and soles are rubber. Not leather. Leather is slippery.
SECOND: An exercise ball is one of the best pieces of exercise equipment that us seniors can own. With an exercise ball we can attain better balance and exercise all the muscles in our backs. Cost: $19 - $139. It depends on the quality. I use the $139 ball. It will outlast 10 of the cheaper ones. But, the $20 one will do just fine when you are starting out.
THIRD: A couple of pairs (different weights) of light dumbbells (individual weights for each hand) are one of the best and least expensive investments there is.
If money is scarce and a concern, you can make your own "water bottle dumbbells" simply by using empty water or soda bottles that you refill with water. A full pint water bottle weighs 1 pound. A 1 quart bottle (still very easy to hold on to) weighs 2 pounds. That’s enough weight for many good exercises.
If you need weights that are a bit heavier, use gallon jugs that have built in handles. A full gallon jug weighs 8 pounds. You can fill them just half full for 4 pound weights.
Easy. Right? And, Free!
FOURTH: Exercise bands enable you to do a multitude of exercises for various muscle groups with varying amounts of resistance. They are very light weight. Compact (can be stored in the closet or dresser). Inexpensive and easy to use.
Exercise bands can be bought individually for about $15 each (they come in different strengths). A set of 3 to 5 bands of different strengths will cost about $35 - $80.
Starting with a single light one, and, working your way up over time as we get stronger is usually the best and most cost efficient way to go.
With just those four items, you have a complete basic full body fitness system!
What does that mean?
It means that all "the best exercise equipment for seniors" might not be right for your needs or your body.
Baseball players don’t do the same exercises as Soccer Players. And, neither does the same exercises as Wrestlers.
Also, most Baseball players really suck at Soccer. Soccer players are agile slim endurance distance runners. Baseball players are not. Look at them. They’re usually fat (no offense meant. It’s just true). And, they don’t run much at all. If they do, it's a very short distance. Soccer player run for more than an hour in a single game.
See what I mean?
If you enjoy long evening walks, why do you need to develop 16 inch biceps? Or a 55 inch chest?
If table tennis is your favorite game/sport, do you really need to bench press 200 pounds? Or, be able to do 50 push ups? Or, run a marathon?
The best exercise equipment for seniors is only the best if it enables us to reach some specific personal goals. Such as: Stronger arms, longer walks, better balance….
For me, the elliptical machine enables me to “run” without pounding my back. I get all the deep breathing, runners “high” (euphoria) and aerobic workouts I like and my joints feel good afterward. They even feel stronger now than before I began.
I also live where there is a lot of cold winter. Many icy days on the streets that would make running a real risk. I can “run” on my elliptical machine in comfort even in the very worst weather.
That is the best exercise equipment for seniors that I have found for myself.
It also keeps my legs strong and in shape for dancing. My favorite hobby.
So, when you are deciding on what kind of exercises you want to do, and, what kind of equipment you may want, consider what your goals are.
This is a most important point: If you’re thinking you want to buy a treadmill, or an elliptical machine, a rowing machine, a complete home gym…..
DON’T BUY ANYTHING UNTIL YOU’VE TRIED IT OUT for at least a few months. I don't mean the wonderful small equipment we just mentioned. Those I would get right away. I'm talking about a major investment in a large machine.
Use it for a few months first.
Because: Sometimes certain machines can cause you problems you didn’t know about. This is not too uncommon. We're all sightly different. Especially as we age. Sometimes there is a problem no one can foresee.
Remember: As you already learned, you don’t need to buy any major exercise equipment.
The best exercise machines can be very helpful for us seniors. But, mostly it is unnecessary. Unless you have special needs, or, desires, as I did.
I personally love my elliptical machine. I have a good one now in my home. It cost $2,000 delivered and set up. That’s a large price tag for a piece of equipment you may wind up not liking or using. I use mine regularly, every week, because I love what it does for me. To me, it is the very best exercise equipment for seniors ever invented.
I also use exercise bands, a balance ball, and some free weights. That's it!
These are my personal preferences. They work perfectly for all my own exercise needs.
I was tempted to buy a rowing machine for my lower back at one point. The thing is, when I used one at the gym for about 4 weeks, it made my back feel WORSE. Terrible. My back just doesn't like it.
And, this brings me to the next VERY IMPORTANT point:
Don’t buy any major exercise equipment until you’ve tried it out for at least a few months and find if it is right for you.
Does it feel good to use after a few months? Is it making you feel stronger? Do you enjoy using it?
Is it right for you?
Even if it is the very best exercise equipment for seniors, is it right for you?
That is the most important question when you are considering exercise equipment: What is best, or, even right for you.
And, this is why we tell everyone who is looking for the best exercise equipment for seniors to go use the equipment. At your local gym. For at least 3 months. If at the end of that time things are better than ever, you’re most likely on to something good.
But, if you have some hidden issues, they may take a couple of weeks or even months to show up. You don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on something that you won’t use.
A average gym membership will cost about $50 a month. Planet fitness is only $16 (when you add in all the fees). And, you can try out all kinds of exercise equipment that you always wanted to, as well as things you didn’t even know existed.
You may even find that you enjoy the gym experience and want to keep the membership. Or, you may decide you don’t want that equipment “decorating” your home or apartment.
You may also decide that you don’t like any of it. That you just want to exercise and play the sports of your choice. And, that is perfectly fine too.
Six months of gym membership will cost you about $200 - $300. It can save you thousands of dollars in mistakes. There are also FREE memberships available to seniors through AARP and Silver Sneakers.
Remember: The best exercise equipment for seniors is only the best if: You enjoy using it, AND, it makes you feel stronger and better.
If you are a beginner, or, don’t have experience with exercise equipment and machines, and, you are trying to figure out how the best exercise equipment for seniors works and what effect it will have on you, or, if you think you might want to try out a treadmill or elliptical machine: GET A TEMPORARY GYM MEMBERSHIP FIRST.
It won't be expensive and it can save you LOTS later on.
That means: Get a membership with a month to month program. Not a yearly subscription. This way you can quit anytime you want and only pay for the months you used.
Then, get one of the staff to show you how to use the exercise equipment and you’ll see what you like and what you may want. This is a free service at most gyms.
You may like a lot of the exercise equipment and never want to buy your own. That’s great too. Keep the gym membership and exercise there. I did that for years.
When I lived in an apartment, I never owned any major exercise equipment because I had nowhere to put it. I used the local 24 hour fitness gym because it was the closest and I had a very inexpensive ($29 a month at that time) membership.
ALSO: Choose the closest gym to your home.
Because it’s easy to get there and back.
So many people, young and old alike, quit going to their gym because it is just too far away. It takes too much time to get there and back.
If you are new to exercise equipment, a professional family Gym (like 24 Hour Fitness, or, Planet Fitness which is the most economical) will usually have all the best exercise equipment for seniors for you to try out and use.
If you are a beginner, or, have never used exercise machines and heavy exercise equipment like Elliptical machines, Treadmills, Lat Machines, Barbells, Leg machines, etc, etc,… You need a place to go and experience these pieces of equipment before you decide to buy anything.
That’s why you join a GYM for a little while. To find out what is best for YOU!
Always make sure there is someone there to show you how to use the equipment properly.
According to CNN, the average gym membership cost is $50 a month.
Luxury gyms can cost $300 a month. Totally a waste of money. Unless you need to have the staff tell you how good you look every day.
There are even memberships for as low as $16 a month (they say $10, but, there is a yearly membership fee too. It comes out to $16 with the annual fees. Still, a great buy). Planet Fitness is the leader here. They have 1,500 gyms in the USA and are growing.
When you exercise with equipment, you always need to have a “Spotter”. Even if you are using the very best exercise equipment for seniors.
What is a “Spotter”?
A spotter is another person who stands right next to you (or directly behind you) and is able to grab you if you slip or lose your balance.
None of us want to fall. That can be a disaster at out age.
A Balance Ball is great for developing and improving our balance.
HOWEVER: It’s easy to roll off a ball if we lose our balance.
So, what can we do?
Have a “spotter” right next to you (or directly behind you)
who can grab and hold on to you
if you are slipping.
Even the strongest professional bodybuilders workout with a spotter when they are doing their exercises. It is the best and smartest way to do our exercises safely.
AND, your spotter must be strong enough to hold on to you and support you. You can’t use Aunt Agnes who is 95 and can barely stand. You need a capably strong person to grab you and hold you up if you are losing your balance.
Remember: When using exercise equipment, always exercise with a spotter. In the gym. AND, at home.
First, we need to be stable. No one wants to fall.
The #1 best piece of equipment, when looking for the best exercise equipment for seniors, is a good pair of gym shoes or running shoes.
Gym shoes are usually called “CrossFit” shoes these days because we can do all kinds of sports and exercises with the same shoes.
Running shoes are pretty much the same thing, only they are usually a little lighter so that we have less weight to move around when we are running a long distance.
Both give excellent support to our feet.
I personally wear running shoes when I am exercising because they are very soft and comfortable. If you want the absolute strongest shoes, look for cross “Crossfit” shoes. Either are the best support when we are exercising.
If you can’t afford a pair right now (under $150), wear some sturdy shoes that lace up (no loafers) and have rubber soles to grip the floor.
If there is just one piece of exercise equipment that we would call the #1 Best Exercise Equipment for Seniors, it has to be the Elliptical Exercise Machine.
I can never recommend these enough because they have done so much for me.
Elyptical machines are different from a tread mill, and infinitely better for us seniors, because we don’t get a shock in our bones every time we take a step. This lack of impact, or shock, is referred to as “low impact” exercise.
A treadmill is just like running on the street (only 100 times more boring). And, it is called “high impact” training because each and every step comes with a small or large shock to the bones as you make contact with the ground. It’s hard on young people. Absolutely terrible for us senior citizens.
The elliptical machine is more like a bicycle. But, you are standing. And, your feet are making an oval rather than a round circular movement. A much more natural movement. Like a running motion. Only without the shock.
Some people like to watch TV on their iPhone or computer while they walk on it or run.
On an elliptical machine, your feet never leave the running surface and there is no shock with each step. “Low Impact”.
On an elliptical machine you also don’t have as much pressure on the lower back as you do on a stationary bicycle. Standing actually has less impact on the lower back than sitting does.The compression is actually about 40% less when standing than when sitting.Interesting. Right?
Doing exercises on a stationary bike was torture to my back. Always a horrible experience. Running on the street, a field, or a treadmill became impossible for me. On the elliptical machine, I never had a problem.
On the elliptical machine you have two sets of supports to hold on to. One that moves, and, a stationary pair for support/balance.
The elliptical machine is probably the single Best Exercise Equipment for Seniors because:
Chris Freytag of Life Fitness explains the benefits of using an elliptical machine in this Video:
The standing elliptical exercise machine is our #1 choice for the best exercise equipment for seniors.
HOWEVER: If you are unable to stand and would like the benefits and easy of exercising with an elliptical exerciser, there are also seated models available. Here’s a Video that shows you how one of these looks and works:
The exercise ball (sometimes called the “Swiss Ball”) is a bit of pure genius. Not too long ago these balls were not even available. But, they have become one of the most valuable additions to the best exercise equipment for seniors.
Because we can do all these things with an exercise ball:
ALL of that on a nice big soft cushiony ball. And, you can get a basic one for under $20.
If you can buy only one item in our list of the best exercise equipment for seniors, get the Exercise Ball.
With an exercise ball you can get:
Here’s complete a complete full body and balance workout on Video with Cindy (from Fitness with Cindy), using the ball. This one is NOT for beginners. But, it’s a great one once you have gained some strength and a little athletic ability. Cindy is one of my favorite video instructors. Take a look:
Here's a link to our Balance Ball Beginners article: The MOST BASIC Balance Ball Workouts for Beginners and Seniors.
Exercise bands enable us to do many resistance (strength building) exercises without having to buy a bunch of heavy weight lifting equipment.
Exercise bands can be kept in the closet, in a dresser drawer, under the bed….
You can do quite an extensive workout with just these bands, Here is a Video by Meredith that will show you just how many great exercises we seniors can do with these bands:
Special NOTE: Please, Please, Please DO NOT try to do ALL of these exercises on day 1. Or, even on day 30. OK? You’ll only feel terrible if you do.
PICK JUST TWO exercises that look like the most fun and do ONLY those two for the first three to five weeks. Then add just one more for the next four weeks…. When you have 5, yes JUST FIVE exercises, you have enough.
When you get bored with those, choose five others. If you really enjoy 3 of them, keep the three, throw away two and pick two others.
Too much exercise of the same type will get boring. So, boring that you’ll just start skipping exercise days… until you quit al together.
If the bands get boring, stop using them for a couple of months and do something else. This applies to every kind of exercise there is.
Dumbells simply add resistance to normal body movements. This makes the movements more difficult. Dumbells are sometimes referred to as “free weights”. They are probably the best piece of exercise equipment for strengthening our normal natural movements.
The idea of using dumbbells or “free weights”, as opposed to an exercise machine, is to strengthen our muscles so that normal movement becomes easier. And, so that we can do more difficult things more easily.
We don’t require a LOT of heavy lifting to get stronger. We don’t need massive barbells like the bodybuilders use. And, don't worry ladies. You're not going to build gigantic muscles with these.
Simple dumbbells (even using “water bottle dumbbells” I explained above) are enough to give us some very good and strengthening exercise. And, some good muscle tone.
Here's a Nice Simple Dumbell Workout for our upper body by Doug Schrift.
It only takes about 10 minutes and is a Great upper body workout for seniors.
Here’s a very nice exercise Video for us seniors by Sandy Magrath that incorporates the “water bottle dumbbells”, exercise bands, and a chair.
It is just six exercises that you can do in about 10 minutes.
What’s our advice on choosing the best exercise equipment for seniors? Do the fun stuff.
Why waste the money on expensive exercise equipment you won’t use?
What’s the best exercise equipment for seniors?
It’s the exercise equipment that makes you feel good,
the equipment you enjoy using.
So, here are the guidelines:
1) Try out the inexpensive versatile pieces we listed above first. They may be all you ever need.
2) If you feel you need something more, temporarily join a Gym. Try out everything for a few months. See what you enjoy. And, what kind of results you get from each piece.
3) Then, if you want, purchase that piece, or, those pieces for your home. OR: just keep your Gym membership and continue exercising there.
That’s it! The best exercise equipment for seniors.
May You Have a Happy Day! Every Day. ~ William, Fiona, and Charlotte
editors note: Always get an exam from your doctor first and an OK from him for any exercise program before you begin.