Baby It’s Cold Outside: Indoor Fitness for Seniors

Indoor fitness

Even when the weather gets cold, it is important for seniors to be active. According to the Mayo Clinic, seniors should aim for 2½ hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. (1)  Activity helps maintain or improve strength, balance, energy, mental sharpness, mood, and your immune system. If you live in a state where the temperature is starting to drop too low to exercise outside, it is time to move your fitness routine indoors.

Indoor Physical Activities for Seniors

Walking Inside

While it may not be the first idea you think of when you think about exercise, you can simply walk inside your house. This can be a bit tricky if you have a small home, but if you do a bit of furniture rearranging, you may be able to create an exercise area. If you have a kitchen island you can do laps around it or if you have a long straight hallway, you can walk back and forth.

For those who live near a shopping mall and have access to transportation, malls provide a safe, warm place with lots of smooth, even walking paths. Many malls even have designated hours for “mall walkers,” making this a great opportunity to get in your laps.

While walking inside can help you stay active on a regular basis, you should also try to find other ways to introduce some cardio and strengthening exercises into your fitness routine.

Using a Home Gym

If you have a spare room in your home or a finished basement, consider turning it into a home gym. You can get a treadmill or exercise bike for cardio activities, and some light weights for strength training. This is not only convenient, but you also won’t have to worry about gyms being open or too crowded.

Any new exercise routine should be approved by your physician, and your Alert1 button alarm should always be worn while exercising just to be safe.

Virtual Fitness Classes and Videos

If you don’t want to set up your own home gym, and don’t want to venture out due to the dropping temperatures or inclement weather, you can still exercise from the comfort of your own home. You can join virtual fitness classes online (there are many exercise tutorials on YouTube, for instance) or order some popular exercise DVDs that are geared toward older adults or indicate they are “low impact.” There are a variety of options available , so you are sure to find one that suits your needs. One search you may want to try is “fall prevention exercises for seniors.” These exercises can help you strengthen the right muscles to reduce your risk of falling.

Join a Public Gym

If you have no place to work out at home, or if you desire a change of scenery, then joining a gym might be a good solution for you. They already have plenty of equipment for you to use. If you are concerned about finding a gym that is friendly for all ages, try using this age-friendly facilities and services locator.

There are typically 2 kinds of gyms—those that have classes, and those that have equipment only. Some gyms have indoor pools, as well. Prices can range from $10/month to over $100/month, depending on the facility, programs, and amenities. No matter which type of gym you prefer, be sure to ask if they give senior citizen discounts.

Join a YMCA

If a gym doesn’t seem quite right, you may want to consider a YMCA instead. A YMCA is typically more community-based than a gym. It provides you with the chance to socialize, which is also an important aspect of senior health. Socializing helps keep your mind sharp and improves your mood.

YMCAs also typically offer some extra amenities, such as a full running track, sport courts, swimming pools, fitness classes, and dance classes. However, it is worth noting that YMCA membership is typically more expensive than the typical gym membership. Senior discounts may be available.

Take a Community Class

Check your city or town for community exercise classes. These are typically held in community centers, schools, or libraries. Like a YMCA, community classes also offer you the chance to socialize and make friends. The people around can help motivate you to meet your fitness goals.

Many communities offer classes such as tai chi, aerobics, dancing, and kickboxing. Each exercise routine benefits your health and wellness in a different way. If you have a specific health goal, choose the class that best helps you meet it. For instance, if you want to improve strength and flexibility, tai chi may be the best option. Alternatively, if you want to improve your cardio and endurance, a dance class may be better.

Get the Most Out of Your Exercise

There are countless ways to exercise. As long as you are doing something active and doctor-approved, it can help improve your overall health and prevent serious medical conditions. Amazingly, around 10% of deaths among adults ages 40 to 69 and 7.8% of deaths among adults ages 70 and older are attributed to physical inactivity. (3) Exercise is critical for maintaining good health. If you want to get the most out of your fitness routine, try these tips:

Use Materials That You Already Have

Some gym equipment can be expensive. If you are exercising on a budget, you can find other ways to make do with what you have.

·         You can use soup cans, wine bottles, books, or laundry detergent as weights.

·         Towels can be use as stretching straps.

·         Basketballs or soccer balls can be used as medicine balls.

Include a Variety of Exercises

The more variety you incorporate into your exercise, the better you can improve your overall health and wellness. Some types of exercises you will want to incorporate include:

·         Strength – This includes weightlifting, cycling, dance, resistance exercises, push-ups, squats, and sit-ups. These exercises help keep your muscles strong so that they can move around properly. They also help you maintain your strength so you can perform daily activities such as getting out of chairs, putting dishes away, doing laundry, and climbing stairs.

·         Endurance – Endurance exercises include walking, running, dancing, cycling, swimming, jump rope, planking, wall sits, and some other bodyweight exercises. These exercises help you do physical activities for a longer period of time. Then you won’t get tired as easily and can reduce your risk of falling.

·         Aerobic and Cardio – Some aerobic exercises include walking, running, swimming, cycling, and jump rope. Pretty much anything that can get your heart beating faster is a cardio exercise. Aerobic exercises help you avoid certain medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

·         Balance – Balance exercises include tai-chi, stability ball exercises, and other strength exercises that require you to hold specific positions. They help you learn how to distribute your weight properly to reduce your risk of falling.

·         Flexibility – Flexibility exercises improve your ability to move and reduce your risk of injuring yourself. Flexibility exercises include various stretches such as toe-touches, lunges, hamstring stretches, calf stretches, quadricep stretches, butterfly stretches, and cobra stretches.

Schedule Exercise into Your Day

If you want to help yourself guarantee that you are getting enough exercise, be sure to create a daily or weekly routine that incorporates exercise into your schedule. To meet the 2 ½ hours per week minimum recommended by the Mayo Clinic, you can do 30 minutes of exercise five times a week and schedule a different type of exercise each day. This can help you get the best all-around workout and reduce your chance of developing medical issues. It can even save on your medical bills. “Adults aged 50-plus years who started exercising just 90 minutes a week saved, on average, $2,200 per year in medical costs,” according to Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)” (4)

Wear the Right Shoes

Make sure you wear good shoes while you work-out. Good shoes can make a significant difference in keeping you safe and minimizing soreness after a workout. Choose shoes that have a sturdy sole and have plenty of cushion support. You may also want to consider insoles that can provide extra comfort where you need it.

Don’t Let Cold Weather Stop You

Even if it’s cold outside, you can find other ways to work up a sweat. Exercise is beneficial to all ages, but is especially important for seniors’ overall health and wellness. It keeps both your mind and body healthy and improves your safety by reducing the risk of falling by increasing your strength and balance. While you may have to miss out on some outdoor activities until spring, you can still enjoy the benefits of indoor exercise. Overall, it doesn’t matter where you are working out, as long as you are doing some sort of consistent activity to stay healthy. Please note: any exercise routine should be approved by your medical doctor before commencing.




1 Carlson, Kelly, PT. Jan 2021. Speaking of Health. Mayo Clinic Health System. Ways for Seniors to Remain Active During Winter.

2 Dotinga, Randy. Sept. 2016. Health News. Health Day. 31 Million Older Americans Aren't Getting Enough Exercise.

3  America’s Health Ranking staff. 2021. Senior Report. America’s Health Ranking.

4 Van Pelt, Jennifer, MA. 2010. Aging Well. Today’s Geriatric Medicine. Exercise as Medicine.