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What Exercises Should Seniors Avoid?

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A senior couple looking at each other smiling while they use colourful dumbbells to do bicep curls

Physical fitness is a crucial component when it comes to living independently in your retirement years. 

Of course, we know all about the importance of staying active as we grow older, but how do we know that activities work best for our maturing joints and muscles, and what exercises should be avoided?

The Villages at River Club is an active and thriving senior living community that encourages our residents to live their healthiest lives. We believe in the benefits of exercise, and hope older adults continue to respect and care for their bodies as they grow older. 

What Happens to Our Bodies as We Age?

Older adults experience a decrease in flexibility and muscle mass as they grow older, and reduced physical activity can significantly exacerbate stiffness and pain in the body. 

Older adults may notice:

  • Muscles losing mass 
  • Joints becoming stiff
  • Issues with balance control 
  • Slower movements
  • Impacts to mobility

Here’s the good news: You can maintain mobility and strength by staying active and ensuring your body remains limber. The secret is to keep moving

Choosing the right exercise for your capabilities can be complicated, and older adults may find some activities more favorable than others. 

What Exercises to Avoid

It’s vital to note that everyone’s body is different, and some older adults may not have difficulties with certain exercises. If you’re a fitness fanatic, remember to listen closely to your body and pay attention to signs that it’s time to stop, or modify to something less challenging. 

The Villages at River Club recommends avoiding the below activities, as they may be dangerous or difficult for seniors: 

Bikram Yoga

Bikram or hot yoga is performed in an enclosed, hot space. This activity can be dangerous to older adults, and may result in dehydration, fainting, and injuries. 

Consider a more traditional yoga class if you’re interested in the mind/body experience while maintaining flexibility, coordination, and balance.

Stair Running

Stair running is an intense exercise, and repetitive movement can cause additional damage to hips, ankles, and knees affected by arthritis. There is also the risk of injury from trips and falls.

Long-Distance Running

Older adults with respiratory conditions should avoid running for extended periods. Additionally, physically fit seniors still experience a natural decrease in aerobic capacity as their bodies grow older.

High-Impact Aerobics

High-impact aerobics can result in severe strain to the heart and lungs, or result in serious injury. Grueling workouts can cause more harm than good, and low-impact aerobic activities are recommended for older adults. 


Deadlifts require active movements under the resistance of weight. These exercises require a good deal of balance, and strong muscles in the lower and upper body. 

Older adults are at a higher risk of injury from performing deadlifts, and should consider modifying or looking at other weight training options.

HIIT Workouts

HIIT stands for “High-intensity interval training,” It consists of active, intense movement periods, with brief intervals of rest. These workouts are demanding, and participants should be conscientious if they have heart and lung problems. 

Squats With Weights

Adding weights to your squats can result in unwanted stress in your lower body. Low-impact squats are a great fitness alternative for seniors who don’t experience problems with their lower backs. Remember to focus on proper posture and form when performing low-impact squats! 

Leg Presses

If you like to lift, consider avoiding leg presses. These exercises place the lower spine in an unnatural position for an extended period. They can be dangerous for older adults who are at risk of damage to the sciatic nerve or spinal discs.

A group of five seniors in active clothing, standing with their arms around each other in a park, smiling after they just exercised

How Can I Keep My Body Healthy?

Now that we’ve told you what exercises to avoid, are you interested in learning what you should do to stay physically fit in the retirement years? The answer’s pretty simple: Stay active! 

As we grow older, we’re a little more tired, cautious of injury, and feeling stiff. It’s easy to put off daily physical activity. Remember that movement helps fight stiffness, strengthens muscles, and helps you stay in shape.

The Best Exercises for Seniors

Gentle, low-impact exercises are highly recommended for older adults. Seniors can perform these types of workouts regularly without placing too much stress on the body. It’s imperative to carefully balance rest and physical activity to avoid injury. 

Seniors should consider these types of exercises to keep their bodies moving: 

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Golf
  • Cycling 
  • Low-impact yoga
  • Moderate running at short intervals
  • Light jogging
  • Brisk walking
  • Indoor treadmill or elliptical machine
  • Using a stationary stair-climber
  • Working out on a stationary bike

Let’s Get You Moving 

Staying active is tremendously important, and older adults should consider adding a workout routine to their daily lives. Being consistent with your health will pay off! 

Contact our knowledgeable team at The Villages at River Club if you are a senior with questions about active living and exercise routines. We’re a thriving and healthy community with lots of ideas to share!

Written by Lucy Townsend

Lucy is the executive director at The Villages at the River Club. Since she was a young girl, she has had a great interest in helping others, especially her elderly neighbors. Graduating from Austin Peay with a healthcare management degree, she worked in a skilled nursing home, receiving her nursing home administrator license in 2002.

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