Keeping your body strong and active as you age is crucial for staying independent and thriving. But not everyone has the time or desire to spend countless hours at the gym doing intense workouts. The good news is that’s where gentle strength training exercises come in handy. As you age, these exercises can be just as effective, if not more so, in keeping your body strong and resilient. We chatted with Mike Masi, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews, who shares the 10 best gentle exercises to strengthen your body as you age.

Incorporating gentle, low-impact exercises into your routine can profoundly impact your overall health and well-being. Not only can they boost your physical health, but they may also improve mental health by reducing stress, depression, and anxiety and enhancing sleep quality, according to a 2023 review. Plus, these gentle exercises are beneficial regardless of your fitness level. Doing them regularly will help you maintain muscle mass and bone density while improving balance and stability, reducing your risk of falls and injuries.

Whether you’re new to strength training or are an experienced exerciser, read on to uncover the 10 best gentle exercises to strengthen your body as you age. Then, when you’re done, be sure to check out The #1 Best Workout To Improve Your Mobility.

Chair Sit-to-Stands

Chair sit-to-stands are fundamental for maintaining lower-body strength, mobility, and independence as you age.

Masi instructs you to sit in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly stand up without using your hands, then sit back down. If you want to make it more challenging, consider using a lower chair. Additionally, widening your feet may help decrease the stress on the knees for those trying to work around knee discomfort. Complete three sets of 10 reps with one minute of rest between sets.

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Heel Raises

Heel raises strengthen lower leg muscles, helping to improve balance and stability and reducing the risk of falls and injuries as you age.

“Stand behind a chair for support. Slowly raise your heels off the floor, then lower them back down. Progress this exercise by standing on a book or a step so your ankle can exercise through a greater range of motion,” says Masi. Aim for two sets of 15 reps with one minute of rest.

Elevated Pushups

Elevated pushups provide a gentle way to build upper-body strength without putting too much strain on your joints. This exercise targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, helping you maintain the upper body muscle mass and strength needed for daily activities.

Masi explains, “Stand a few feet from a sturdy elevated surface. Place your hands on the surface slightly wider than shoulder width. Perform a pushup by bending and straightening your elbows. Find a height that allows you to get the target rep range below while touching your chest to the surface with every rep.” Do two sets of 10 reps with one minute of rest.

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Shoulder Circles

Shoulder circles are an excellent way to enhance shoulder mobility, reduce stiffness, and boost shoulder flexibility. Pain-free shoulders make it easier to reach, lift, and carry objects.

Masi says you can sit or stand for this exercise with your arms reached out to each side and palms facing down. Keep your elbows straight and move your arms in small consecutive circles, either forwards or backward.

“This exercise is meant for more reps and doesn’t require much weight. However, you can add a small weight or a can of soup to each hand to increase the difficulty,” says Masi. Complete 30 rotations in each direction for two sets, resting for one minute between.

Glute Bridges

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Glute bridges can help improve your posture and assist with daily lifting and bending activities since they engage muscles in your hips and lower back.

“Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat,” instructs Masi. “Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart. Push your feet into the floor, lift your hips off the ground until they’re in line with your knees and shoulders, or until you can’t go any further.” Perform three sets of 15 reps with one minute of rest between sets.

Tandem Stance

“This exercise improves your balance, especially in positions where you have a decreased base of support,” Masi explains.

Stand with one foot directly in front of the other, with the front foot’s heel touching the back foot’s toes. Hold onto a chair for support if needed and maintain this position for 10 to 20 seconds before switching feet. Do two sets of three holds per foot, resting for one minute between sets.

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Hand Grips

Hand grips are a simple yet effective exercise that can boost your grip strength, making it easier to perform tasks such as opening jars, carrying groceries, and holding onto railings.

To do them, Masi says, “Squeeze a soft ball or a hand grip exerciser, hold for a few seconds, then release. This exercise can also be performed isometrically by squeezing a soft towel. When doing it this way, you may want to hold each squeeze longer.” Aim for four sets of 15 reps per hand with one minute of rest.

Band Pull-Aparts

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The band pull-apart is an excellent exercise for strengthening the upper back and shoulders. Masi tells us this movement helps improve posture and can alleviate upper back and neck pain, which are common issues as you age.

“Stand or sit with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a resistance band with both hands; arms extended in front of you at shoulder height, palms down. Pull the band apart by moving your arms outward until the band touches your chest, then slowly return to the starting position,” says Masi. Complete two sets of 15 reps, resting for one minute between sets.

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Dead Bugs

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This core exercise helps improve stability and coordination, which are vital for maintaining balance and preventing injuries.

“Lie on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle,” Masi explains. “Lower your left leg toward the floor while pressing your lower back into the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.” Perform two sets of 10 reps per leg with one minute of rest between.

Downward Dog

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Downward-facing dog is a gentle yoga pose that stretches the entire body while building upper-body strength, improving flexibility, and alleviating tension.

To perform this movement, Masi says you should start in a pushup position on the floor with your hands under your shoulders. Keep your arms straight and lift your hips to the ceiling, straightening your legs as much as possible. Hold this position for three to five seconds, then return to the pushup position. Aim for four sets of five reps with one minute of rest between sets.

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