Rehabilitation exercises for
Fact sheet
Rehabilitation exercises for
older adults
Flexibility refers to the amount of movement possible around a joint and is
necessary for normal activities of daily living such as stretching, twisting,
bending and turning. Maintenance of flexibility is important as posture and gait
can be affected by sedentary living.
The following series of exercises will improve flexibility and are ideal as
limbering or warm-up exercises.
Before commencing there are simple points to consider:
Comfortable, loose fitting clothing should be worn, shoes are not essential.
Exercise is more fun if done with music turn on the radio or play a record with a
good underlying rhythm.
For optimal benefit, the exercises should be performed three or four times a
week, but may be used at any time to loosen up.
Do not exercise if you have a temporary illness or are unduly tired and do not
exercise when the weather is extremely hot or humid.
Do not persist with an exercise if the movement continues to cause excessive
pain or discomfort.
Muscle stiffness is quite normal when you begin to exercise for the first time.
However, if the stiffness persists, or if you should feel unduly fatigued after
exercising, you may be working too hard! Slowing down and progressing more
gradually should help.
Breathe normally throughout all exercises and do not hold your breath during
any movement.
Perform all exercises in a smooth, rhythmical manner, stretching to full range
and holding momentarily before returning to the start position. Avoid bouncing
and jerking movements and try to relax during all exercises.
Stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor if you experience any of
the following: a) nausea, b) dizziness, c) breathlessness, d) tightness in the
chest, or e) severe muscular or joint pain.
This exercise program should take between 15 and 30 minutes depending
upon the number of repetitions of each exercise.
Flexibility exercises:
1. Neck Stretch
Aim to stretch the side of the neck.
Move your head from side to side gently dropping
your head to shoulder level.
Repeat. All movements should be performed slowly
to avoid strain or dizziness.
2. Shoulder raises and rotations
Aim to loosen up the shoulders and neck region.
a) Shrug the shoulders upward toward the ears,
then relax. Repeat.
b) Rotate the shoulders slowly in one direction.
Repeat in opposite direction.
3. Shoulder push outs
Aim to stretch the upper trunk and shoulders.
Interlock the fingers of both hands and raise above
head. Push the palms upwards, straightening out the
elbows. Repeat.
4. Arm/trunk stretch
Aim to stretch the upper trunk and shoulder.
a) Stretch one arm back behind the body, slowly turn
your head, shoulder and trunk to look behind.
b) Raise one arm up over the head, as high as
possible inhaling during the movement. Exhale as
your arm is lowered. Repeat using other arm.
5. Hip Stretch
Aim to stretch the large muscles of the upper leg.
Sit on the edge of a chair. Raise one leg up to the
chest, then return the foot to the floor and extend the
leg back as far as possible. Repeat with other leg.
6. Ankle rotations
Aim to loosen up the ankle region.
Extend one leg forward and rotate the ankle, making
large circles in clockwise and anti-clockwise
directions. Repeat with other foot.
7. Hamstring stretch
Aim to stretch the lower back.
Caution: do not bounce during this movement.
Place one leg upon another chair. Keeping this leg
straight, slowly relax whilst stretching the arms
forward to feel tension behind the knee. Don't forget
to breathe! Hold and repeat.
8. Arm circling
Aim to loosen up the shoulders and trunk.
Move both arms together and cross in front of your
face. Then reverse the direction of the movement
until arms are outstretched at your side. Repeat.
9. Calf stretch
Aim to stretch the calf muscle.
Stand facing a wall, with one leg in front of the other.
The front leg should be flexed with the rear leg
straight. Support the upper body by placing both
hands on the wall. Slowly lower the hips towards the
wall, whilst keeping the back straight and both heels
on the ground. Repeat.
10. Side bends
Aim to stretch the trunk.
With feet widely spaced, and knees slightly bent,
slowly exhale and lower the shoulder and arm
towards the ground so that the hand moves to the
back of the knee. Raise the other arm into the air,
above the head. Hold and repeat.
11. Thigh stretch
Aim to stretch the muscles of the calf and hip.
With both hands on the ground supporting the upper
body, place one leg forward in between the hand,
with the knee over the ankle. The rear knee is slowly
lowered to the ground. Repeat.
12. Knee tucks
Aim to stretch the buttocks and thigh region.
Lie on your back with both knees bent. Slowly bring
one knee towards your chest, and hold. Repeat.
13. Body curl
Aim to stretch the lower back region and spine.
Lie on your back. Slowly pull both knees to your chest with the hands. Curl the head
in, (and exhale), to meet the knees. Hold then return to the starting position.
14. Trunk rotations
Aim to loosen up the lower trunk region.
Lie on your back with both arms outstretched to the
side. Bend both knees up, with the heels remaining
on the floor. Slowly rotate the knees from side to
side. Repeat.
Strengthening Exercises
Muscular fitness can only be maintained by continued usage. Strength is gained by
gradually overloading muscles. The following series of exercises will assist in
improving muscular strength of the arms, legs and trunk.
15. Calf raises
Aim to strengthen the calf muscle. Balance
yourself by holding onto a chair or table. Slowly
raise the heels up high, balancing on the toes.
Lower after a count of three.
16.Wall arm push outs
Aim to strengthen the upper arms and
Stand facing a wall, about arm's length away.
Slowly inhale as you bend the arms and lower
your body towards the wall. Your heels may lift
if you wish.
Exhale as you push back to the start position.
17. Squats
Aim to strengthen the thigh muscles.
Caution: never bend the knees beyond a right
angle, as injury to the knees may occur.
Stand upright with your back against a wall,
and heels about 25cm away from the wall.
Keeping the back straight and head erect,
slowly lower the body by bending the knees
and sliding down against the wall. Hold, then
return to start position and repeat.
18. Bridging
Aim to strengthen the lower back and buttocks.
Lie on your back with both knees bent. Slowly
raise your hips up off the floor. Hold for a count
of six, then relax. Repeat.
19. Abdominal curls (modified sit-ups)
Aim to strengthen the stomach region.
Lie on your back with both knees bent, feet flat
on the floor and arms at sides. Press the small
of the back into the floor, then slowly exhale
and curl up as you slide your arms towards
your knees. When performing this exercise, it
is only necessary to lift the back up to an angle
of about 45 degrees. Hold for a count of two,
and lower. Repeat.
20. Side leg raises
Aim to strengthen the upper leg.
Lie on side with head resting on extended arm.
Bottom leg should be bent at the knee to
protect the back. Slowly raise top leg to just
about shoulder height. Lower the leg,
maintaining a straight knee with the ankle
pulled forward. Repeat.
21. Pelvic tilting
Very important exercise for women.
Aim to strengthen the pelvic region. Lie on your
back. Draw in abdominal muscles and tighten
buttocks so that the small of you back flattens.
Place fingers behind the back and attempt to
push into the floor. Hold and repeat.
Please note: This information is a guide only. All adults should seek advice prior to commencing an
exercise program. Do not commence exercise without consulting an appropriate health professional.
For more information
Centre for Physical Activity in Ageing
Hampstead Rehabilitation Hospital
207-255 Hampstead Road
SA 5085
Telephone: 61 8 8222 1891
© Department of Health, Government of South Australia. All rights reserved.
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