Being physically active plays a decisive role in staying fit as a senior. No matter if you choose to go the gym or work out in the comfort of your own home: With the right workout equipment and exercise machines, it is easy to exercise and to do something for your health. But by no means all home gym equipment is also suitable for seniors.
In this article we will therefore take a look at the best exercise machines for seniors and see what exactly you should look out for. Have fun! ?
How Should an Exercise Machine for Seniors Look Like?
First of all, we have to ask ourselves what an exercise machine for seniors should incorporate. Basically, the answer is simple and self-explanatory: It should take the specific needs of seniors into account. What exactly do I mean by this? Let’s have a look.
Low Impact Workout
Well, for example, an exercise machine for seniors should be low-impact and easy on the joints. Even though everyone should pay attention to this point, it is especially important for seniors.
With increasing age, our joints can no longer withstand such high loads, so it is important that we train as gently as possible.
For example, on a treadmill – probably the most popular exercise machine – it is the case that with each step, about 3-4 times our own body weight is put on our joints. Especially the knee joint, which is already put under a lot of stress because of its anatomy, has to withstand high pressure.
Therefore, for seniors it would be a better idea to choose exercise equipment that does not generate these impact forces and does not put a lot of stress on our joints.
Natural Motion Pattern
Additionally, exercise machines for seniors should be based on our natural motion pattern. Our body has certain patterns that it prefers to choose in order to move around. Each joint has a certain range of motion.
An exercise machine for seniors should be designed to operate within these ranges of motion and thus provide the most natural and healthy workout possible.
Security and safety are two very important factors as well. Since falling and stumbling becomes more problematic with increasing age, it is of course advisable to choose exercise equipment with age-appropriate safety precautions.
Depending on the exercise machine, this could be an automatic emergency stop system or handles that you can hold on to during the workout.
Why It Is Perfect for Seniors
The elliptical really is the perfect exercise machine for seniors, because it fulfills all of the aspects I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
If the treadmill is the indoor version of running, the elliptical is the equivalent to walking. The big advantage of this is that unlike the treadmill, the elliptical does not produce impact forces.
The feet are in constant contact with the pedals so that the training is very easy on the joints and perfectly suitable for seniors! Furthermore, the motion pattern on the elliptical is considered to be very natural and healthy! Additionally, our hands are in constant contact with the handles, so that the workout is also considered to be very safe. There’s really not much to be desired. ?
This is What You Have to Pay Attention to
In order to make the workout on the elliptical as natural as possible, it is advisable to pay attention to a few aspects.
#1: Stride Length and Pedal Distance
As already mentioned, the motion sequence on the elliptical is similar to walking. The movement of our feet follows an elliptical path.
In order for this sequence to be as close to our natural motion pattern as possible, it is best to choose a long stride length and a short horizontal distance between the pedals. If you adjust the elliptical in this way, the workout is very easy on the joints and you will prevent an overload of the knee and hip joints.
The stride length should be at least 18 inches, and the distance between the left and right pedal should not exceed 8 inches.
#2: The Flywheel Weight
The flywheel weight also plays a decisive role. Since we move on an elliptical path on the elliptical, the loads vary in the range of motion. After all, it is easier to push the pedal down than to push it up again from below.
And this is where the flywheel weight comes into play! This basically stores the swing energy we generate and returns it to us at the points where we would have to apply more force. In this way, the loads are distributed evenly over the entire movement and the elliptical will just feel smoother.
A high flywheel weight will make the workout more gentle, healthier and better suited for seniors. An elliptical for seniors should have a flywheel weight of at least 30 lbs.
#3: The Posture
In the end, as with all exercise machines, it all comes down to your own posture. Slouching and other types of bad posture should be avoided at all costs. Reading a book on an elliptical might also be a bad idea, because you should try to look forward and keep a straight back, which could be difficult if you’re trying to read.
So, make sure that your posture is upright, look forward and keep your shoulders down.
Best Elliptical for Seniors
The Nautilus E628 Elliptical is a very good exercise machine for seniors. It comes with a very high flywheel weight of 30 pounds and allows for a low-impact workout at any time.
In addition, there are 29 integrated training programs that provide a very high functionality. A chest strap for heart rate measurement is also included.
To cut a long story short: The Nautilus Elliptical is the perfect choice for seniors. But I guess it would be best if you just take a look at this device for yourself. Here you will find all the information you’ll need.
The Stationary Bike
Why It Is Perfect for Seniors
Yes, the stationary bike is also a very well-suited exercise machine for seniors. Here, too, the feet are in constant contact with the pedals so that there are no impact forces.
Of course, the movement is almost identical to cycling on a bike, which is considered a very natural movement anyway. However, a stationary bike is even more joint-gentle, as you don’t have to deal with uneven surfaces.
In addition, most exercise bikes have handles which provide further safety. In summary: The stationary bike is a very good exercise machine for seniors!
What You Have to Pay Attention To
#1: The Flywheel Weight
Same as with the elliptical, the flywheel weight also plays an important role when choosing the right stationary bike. Here, too, the flywheel weight helps to smoothen the movement so that the workout is as gentle and healthy as possible.
The flywheel weight of a stationary bike for seniors should be at least 22 lbs.
#2: The Backrest
Many manufacturers nowadays offer specific stationary bikes for seniors, sometimes also called recumbent bikes. These are characterized by having a seat with a backrest, so that you almost workout in a lying position.
This relieves the back and makes the cycling workout even more joint-gentle and senior-friendly.
Best Stationary Bike for Seniors
The Xterra Recumbent Bike is a very good choice for seniors. It comes with a great flywheel weight of 22 pounds, 24 levels of electronic resistance, built-in audio speakers, and most importantly it offers a comfortable seat with a backrest, so that the workout is healthy and easy on the joints.
The Vibration Plate
Why It Is Perfect for Seniors
Last but not least, let’s talk about the exercise machine that I think is the most underrated one. In my opinion it deserves much more attention and the good news is that it’s also perfectly suited for seniors. I am talking about the vibration plate. But what is it anyway?
A vibration plate is a vibrating platform on which you can do your workout. It transmits vibrations to our body and causes our muscles to contract subconsciously in order to counterbalance these vibrations.
Especially the deep muscles that are responsible for stabilizing our body are targeted when working out on a vibration plate. The interesting thing about this is that we normally cannot even consciously control these muscles, let alone train them.
However, they make up about 40% of our entire muscles and play a decisive role, especially for seniors, because, as I said, they provide stability and balance.
With the vibration plate we can target exactly these muscles. A vibration workout also strengthens our bones and enhances our blood flow.
The vibration plate works most effectively if we combine it with classic bodyweight exercises such as push-ups or squats. If we perform these exercises on a vibration plate, we not only train the muscles that are targeted by the exercises themselves, but also the deep muscles.
What You Have to Pay Attention to
#1: The Type of Vibration
The oscillations of a vibration plate are either vertical (from top to bottom) or side alternating (from left to right). And here we are talking about the natural motion pattern again.
In contrast to kangaroos and many other animals, humans do not move in a jumping, purely vertical way. The stresses always change from one side to the other, so that two identical muscles of the left and right body parts are never activated at the same time.
Our natural movement pattern is therefore side alternating. For this reason, you should also choose a vibration plate with side alternating vibrations, because our body is simply used to this kind of motion. In this way, the workout will be lower impact and as easy on the joints as possible.
#2: The Frequencies
Frequencies are also very important when buying a vibration plate. These are specified in Hertz and determine how many oscillations per second emanate from the plate.
If the frequency is very high, there are a lot of vibrations per second, so your muscles have to react to new stimuli again and again. This would be very intensive and is mainly used by well-trained athletes to improve their muscle power.
For seniors, on the other hand, the low frequencies are more suitable, as they allow the muscles to relax. In this way, you can effectively work on your coordination.
Most vibration plates offer different frequency ranges, so that you can ultimately decide for yourself how you want to train. Here is a short overview of the different training effects that you can achieve at different frequencies:
- Low frequency (1-12 Hz): Muscle relaxation, regeneration/cool down, proprioception, mobilization
- Medium frequency (12-20 Hz): Improvement of muscle function and coordination
- High frequency (20-35 Hz): Increases muscle performance, restores or strengthens muscle power
#3: The Training Surface
Finally, let’s get back to the issue of safety. Of course, this also plays an important role with the vibration plate. Besides the aspects already mentioned, the training surface should also meet the necessary safety standards.
It should have a certain size and be nonslip in any case to prevent falls. Therefore, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish and choose a high-quality vibration plate with good workmanship and high-quality materials.
Best Vibration Plate for Seniors
The Powerfit Elite is a vibration plate that fulfills all the above mentioned criteria with flying colors and is the perfect exercise machine for seniors in my opinion. Strictly speaking, this model convinces in every category and is therefore not only recommendable for seniors, but for all target groups.
If you are interested in the whole body vibration workout, you should take a look at the Powerfit Elite for yourself. Here you will find it. I have also written a whole review on this model, which you can find here.
Final Thoughts on the Best Exercise Machine for Seniors
With an exercise machine, seniors – no matter if in the gym or at home – can bring movement into their everyday life and thus ensure long-term health. Exercise equipment for seniors should be easy on the joints, should stick to our natural motion pattern and provide safety. With the models I recommended in this article, you will get exercise machines that can fulfill all of these criteria! ?
I hope that I could help you with this article. If you still have further questions or suggestions, feel free to send me a mail.
Otherwise I wish you a lot of fun with your new exercise machine! ?