The Best Summertime Exercises for Seniors

summer exercise

Summer is nearly upon us, and heat waves will soon follow. A heat wave is a period of intense heat, often coupled with excessive humidity. It usually comes with very high Heat Index Values – so when you hear a meteorologist talk about the “heat index,” they are talking about how the temperature really feels to the human body. The National Weather Service explains that the heat index is often higher than the actual temperature, as it is created by a combination of the temperature and the relative humidity.

For instance, if the temperature is 96 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity level is at 70%, it can feel like an oppressive 126 degrees Fahrenheit[1]. When the heat index hits numbers like that, it isn’t a good idea for elderly adults to be outside, especially in direct sunlight.

Amazingly, heat waves kill more Americans than floods, lighting, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Young children and those over the age of 65 are especially prone to exhaustion, cramps, swelling, fainting, and other heat-related problems that could lead to coma or death if not treated immediately[2].

What Problems Can the Heat Cause?

The elderly are especially susceptible to heat-related issues. These are collectively known as hyperthermia. Many of these problems can creep up on you slowly and can turn a fun day outside into a medical emergency even before you realize you’re in trouble. The National Institutes of Health breaks them down:

·         Heat cramps. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, heat cramps are the mildest form of hyperthermia and are just what you might think they are – painful cramps or spasms anywhere in the body that can occur after intense workouts or sweating in the heat.

·         Heat exhaustion. This is more serious than heat cramps and occurs when the body becomes very dehydrated and loses salt. This can happen if you are dealing with extreme heat and sweating but not replacing the lost fluid quickly enough.

·         Heat stroke. This is the most serious situation. When the body becomes overwhelmed by heat, it loses its ability to regulate temperature. As a result, a person’s body temperature can soar to 104 degrees or higher. The result is dry, flushed skin, a rapid pulse, changes in behavior (such as becoming combative or confused), and a lack of sweating.

·         Heat edema. This is swelling in the feet, ankles, and lower legs that occurs when a person gets too hot. To treat this, get to a cool area and put your feet up. If the swelling doesn’t go down quickly, talk to your doctor.

·         Heat syncope. This is the dizziness and potential fainting that is associated with getting too hot or being out in the sun too long. Sit down immediately, as this makes you a serious fall risk. Stay in a cool area until the feeling passes.

There are some factors common to older adults that can make a heat-related situation worse. These include:

·         Heart, lung, and kidney diseases

·         A salt-restricted diet (such as that for high blood pressure)

·         Reduced sweating (which can be caused by some medications)

·         Certain prescribed medications

·         Being overweight or underweight

·         Poor blood circulation, inefficient sweat glands, or other age-related issues with the skin

Being dehydrated, drinking alcohol, living in an extremely warm home, or being in an overcrowded place are other issues that can lead to hyperthermia. 

Given these risks, it’s safe to say that when it comes to exercise, finding something that you can do indoors during the hottest summer months is a great idea. If it happens to be a day when the weather is cooler, you could likely exercise outside and get some fresh air – but always pay attention to the heat index before you make the choice to go outside to exercise.

If you are exercising outside and begin to feel the effects of heat exhaustion, move inside immediately. With an Alert1 medical alert system, you can press a button and immediately get the help you need. The trained professionals at our Command Center will quickly assess the situation and get in touch with the people in your Circle of Care, or will call for emergency services if that is necessary. You can rest assured that with your Alert1 Medical Alert, you can always get the assistance you need – fast.

Best Exercises for Seniors when it’s Hot Outside

Some exercises can be done in a cool building, such as a gym or senior center, or even in your own home. Others can be taken outside, but might be safe only during the early morning or evening hours near dusk, when the temperature usually cools to a safer level.


This is the simplest exercise of all. Taking a leisurely stroll around the local mall or the indoor track at your local gym can be great ways to get the blood moving and your heart rate up. (Remember to stay safe by taking your medical alert device with you wherever your feet take you!)

Walking is recommended for older adults because it is low impact, easy to do almost anywhere, and helps improve balance and coordination, strengthens muscles and bones, and improves cardiovascular health while helping you maintain a healthy weight. It has mental benefits as well, such as reduced anxiety, stress, and depression, increased confidence, and higher energy levels[3]. Alert1’s medical alert watch looks just like a sports watch, and even has a built-in pedometer.


This gentle exercise can easily be done indoors. Traditional stretching requires being on the floor, often with the use of a mat. Using a chair, however, allows you to sit down while safely engaging in a variety of stretches that offer greater flexibility. This can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, improve balance and coordination, and lead to a sunnier outlook. It can also help strengthen bones, which is essential for older adults who are at risk of osteoporosis.

Light Weight Training

The age-related loss of muscle mass can start in your 30s and progress at the rate of three or five percent of muscle loss each decade. When you hit your 60s that rate of muscle decline speeds up. Light weight training can help fight that muscle loss, as well as improve brain function and help prevent osteoporosis. Be careful not to lift too much, as weights that are too heavy can lead to serious injury.

Climbing Stairs

If you have a higher activity level, you can choose to use a stair climbing machine or simply make a point of climbing the stairs in your home. Walk up and down the staircase several times (while always holding onto the railing and wearing your medical alert wristband). This helps strengthen your calves, thighs, and buttocks. The stronger your legs are, the less of a fall risk you might have.

Tai Chi

Though this can be done outside on a lovely day, it’s often an instructor-led class inside. It can also be done at home while following along with a video online. This exercise is gentle on the body but can lead to exceptionally good flexibility and balance. The fact that it improves balance and coordination means you could see tai chi as a form of fall prevention, which is always a good thing for anyone, but especially older adults.


You can do this on a stationary bike at the gym or at home, with one of the new biking machines and apps – this technology can even pair you with other rides or an instructor on a screen, which can help motivate you to keep going.

Water Aerobics

Working out in the water has a host of benefits, including the natural resistance of the water, the buoyancy that relieves joint pain and makes it easier to move, and of course, the fact that the water keeps you cool even during the heat of the summer. Working out in water is a great way to build strength through resistance. You can do this inside at a gym that has a pool, or at an outdoor pool (but keep in mind the fact that you should still avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day, and always wear sunscreen).

Simple Exercises at Home

If you have limited mobility, there are still some potential exercises that could work, and they can be done easily at home. If you’re sitting down, stretch your legs by pointing your toes in different directions. If you can, lift your legs and hold them there for a moment. If you’re standing up, lift yourself up on your toes (while holding onto something sturdy for balance) and repeat it several times.

If you are watching television, take advantage of the commercials. Stand up from your seat and do something physical, such as squats or torso twists. If you’ve got enough room, you can even do jumping jacks!

Don’t have dumbbells? You don’t need them. Use a water or milk gallon jug. At 8.34 pounds and 8.6 pounds, respectively, these jugs provide plenty of weigh to lift, as well as convenient handles.

How Much Should You Exercise?

Older adults need at least 2 ½ hours each week, or about 150 minutes, of moderate aerobic exercise each week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This translates into exercising five days per week for about 30 minutes each time. Moderate exercise can include brisk walking, a jog, or dancing. Lifting weights, doing sit-ups, or resistance training should be done at least two days each week. If you are in good health and enjoy vigorous exercise, such as running, you can get away with about 75 minutes per week of exercise.

When you start to exercise, remember that you can’t just jump into the action – it takes time to acclimate to anything, and that includes new ways to move your body. Build your regimen slowly.  The National Institute on Aging offers this advice:

·         Before you begin any exercise program, talk to your doctor. This is especially true if you have any health conditions or you are on medications.

·         Warm up before any exercise with a few stretches. Remember to cool down afterward with more stretching.

·         Start with low-intensity exercises and work your way up to more challenging ones.

·         Drink water! Drink it before, during, and after you work out. Do this even if you aren’t feeling thirsty.

·         Remember to wear appropriate clothing and sturdy, supportive sneakers for the workout.

No matter what exercise you are doing, whether at home or in some other location, consider wearing a medical alert watch or pendant. This handy button alert will be right here with you in the event of emergency. Having that peace of mind right there at your fingertips can allow you to relax and enjoy the physical benefits you’re getting from exercise.

What If I Suffer From Heat Related Illness?

Even if you are following the guidelines about exercising indoors or only during the coolest parts of the day, you might still suffer from heat-related issues. If that happens, there are some things you can do to help prevent it from becoming a true emergency[4]:

·         Go to a cool place, preferably one with air conditioning. Lie down and rest. If you can’t get inside, get to the coolest area you possibly can, such as in deep shade.

·         Drink fluids, especially water and fruit juices. Avoid anything with alcohol and caffeine. Those can make the situation worse.

·         If you can get in cool water, do it. Shower, bathe, or sponge off your body with cool water.

·         If you aren’t feeling better very soon, never hesitate to go to the emergency department.

To stay as safe as possible, always wear your on-the-go medical alert. You’ll want medical alert technology that allows you to press the button and speak to a professional at our Command Center no matter where you might happen to be or what time of day (or night) it is.

Still not quite sure where to start with your new exercise regimen? This Activity Planner from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can help you put your goals into writing and get started on them right away.

As always, Alert1 wishes you health and safety, and a very happy summer!