Today we are going to talk about calisthenics for seniors. Can seniors do calisthenics safely and is it beneficial for your health? Read on to find out.
Calisthenics is a great way to get started with strength training because it requires virtually no equipment. Most calisthenics movements are functional exercises that improve full-body flexibility and strength for seniors.
Another great thing about calisthenics is that most people are familiar with them. Many of the movements are taught in schools and they are very intuitive movement patterns we use naturally.
Strength training is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise for seniors. And the benefits of strength training are incredibly diverse for seniors. So calisthenics is a good option for improving your strength and health.
You might have a general idea about calisthenics are but let’s take a closer look!
What Is Calisthenics
Strictly speaking, calisthenics means any exercise that is done by using your own body weight. This would include activities like standing, walking, running, swimming etc.
More commonly calisthenics refers to bodyweight exercises that require strength, mobility, and body control. Good examples of these are push-ups and pull-ups. Also, gymnastics that involve the use of rings, vaults, bars, balance beams etc. are considered a form of calisthenics.
The word calisthenics means “beauty and strength” or “beautiful strength” as it’s derived from the Greek words kallos (beauty) and sthenos (strength). The ancient Greeks saw calisthenics as a form of achieving the potential strength and beauty of one’s body. Do you know those ancient Greek statues with a perfect muscular figure? That’s the result of calisthenics for you.
What’s common with all calisthenics exercises is that they are done with minimal equipment using your body weight. Stretching, mobility and balance skills are a key part of calisthenics. They are challenged in almost every exercise. Calisthenics is great for improving proprioception which is very important for balance and athletics performance.
These days calisthenics are also synonymous with home or street workouts. These are workouts that can be done on the floor and on various horizontal bars and racks. Calisthenics can be used to build impressive physiques and strength. As well as for improving general health, strength, and mobility.
Common exercises in home and street calisthenics workouts include:
- Push up variations
- Dip variations
- Squat jumps
- Pistol squats
- Leg raises
These exercises will train the muscles of your whole body. Pulling movements like pull-ups and chin-ups use the upper back and biceps. Pushing movements like push-ups and dips use the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Squat variations train the whole lower body, including the quads, the hamstrings, and the glutes. Planks, levers, and L-sits require incredible core strength.
I also talk more about bodyweight exercises in the articles Best Ab Exercises For Seniors [3 Exercises With Tips], Standing Balance Exercises For Seniors [4 Simple Exercises] and Lunges For Seniors [The Perfect Leg Strength Exercise?].
Is calisthenics beneficial for seniors?
Calisthenics is very beneficial for seniors. It is a form of strength training. Which of course means performing calisthenics offers the benefits of strength training. For seniors, the greatest benefits of strength training are maintaining muscle mass, improving strength and improving bone strength. Calisthenics has been shown to be an effective way to improve strength in seniors.
Calisthenics also requires you to challenge your balance and maintain and improve your mobility. Improving and maintaining balance is one of the most important goals for seniors besides maintaining strength and muscle mass as you age. This is because losing balance and falling becomes more likely and more dangerous as you age.
Calisthenics offers free and easy-to-do floor exercises for seniors who don’t have the option of going to a gym. You don’t have to do complex and technique-driven calisthenics movements like muscle ups and levers to get the health benefits and to improve your strength. Simple exercises like push-ups, pull variations, squats and sit-ups can train your whole body in a short amount of time.
If you are hesitant about going to the gym or getting a trainer or simply can’t afford them or any strength training equipment, start doing a basic calisthenics program (affiliate link, I will earn a small commission if you buy) and you can improve your health vastly. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that!
Are calisthenics safe for seniors?
So are calisthenics safe for seniors? Generally speaking yes they are. It’s extremely important to know your level of fitness and start carefully. There is always a potential for injury, as with all exercise.
If you have heart conditions or other significant health issues, your exercise program needs to be planned with your treating doctor. Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
The greatest risk of calisthenics for seniors are joint injuries, pulled muscles, and lower back pain from performing the exercises with poor form or without sufficient mobility.
The important thing is to know your limitations, learn the movements with the correct form and then gradually improve them.
Never try to perform a new exercise out cold. Always warm up, try it slowly and feel out if you have any mobility issues or pain in your joints. If you experience any pain, stop.
I want to point out that pain and mild discomfort are different things. You will always feel a bit uncomfortable when trying new exercises and challenging your strength. Progress lives outside of your comfort zone after all.
When you keep these simple rules in mind while practicing calisthenics, they should be completely safe even if you are a bit older.
Simple calisthenics routine for seniors
This simple calisthenics routine by Tony Tailor from Active Adults Fitness will get you started with bodyweight training (YouTube embed. Content not created or owned by ElderStrength.com):
It’s a very simple program that includes 4 exercises and can be done in 7 minutes. That’s right 7 minutes! The included exercises are a chair squat, a push-up, the mountain climber, and the lunge.
The program will activate most of the large muscles in your body and will get you started with strength training. The only problem with the program is that it lacks a pulling movement. If you want to try a strength training program that requires a bit more equipment (a dumbbell or a kettlebell) download my free strength training routine from the form below.
I hope you enjoyed reading about calisthenics for seniors, what do you think, does it sound like something you’d like to try? If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer you.
I’m not really a calisthenics expert since my experience is more in barbell and gym training. But I’ll share what I know. I do include pull-ups and dips in my regular strength training routine, both with body weight as well as added weight. I also do dragon flag progressions to improve my core strength.
I actually build my initial strength as a teenager by doing tons of pull-ups, push-ups, body-weight squats, and crunches. At some point, I could perform 27 strict pull-ups which was my all-time record. I have since gained quite a bit of body weight so pull-ups have become harder.
I can still eke out over 10 pull-ups in a good day though. I’m not telling you this to brag but to show I have some actual experience with bodyweight exercises. If you want to improve your strength with calisthenics and body weight exercises it’s completely possible. I am living proof. Just start light, get started right away, and stick to it! Consistency is the key.
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See you next time!