5 Non-Equipment Home Exercises for Older Adults

The CDC currently recommends we continue to implement social distancing measures and stay at home as much as possible, and many of us are adjusting to this new normal. We are learning how to create new daily routines, and it’s increasingly important to incorporate physical activity into that routine. During a time where many of us feel stressed and worried about our health, exercise has been shown to improve mood, manage stress, and lower risk for disease.

Strength-building exercises to do at home

Physical activity is important for all age groups, including older adults. The World Health Organization recommends older adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity throughout the week, perform physical activity to enhance balance at least three times per week, and incorporate muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Incorporating all these activities into a weekly schedule while continuing to stay at home can seem challenging, but we’ve listed a few simple exercises that can be done at home – no equipment required.

Body-weight squat

Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening the muscles in our legs. Strengthening these muscles will allow us to more easily get up and down from a couch, chair, or toilet. To perform this exercise, stand with feet hip width apart and lower your body down as if you were sitting into a chair. While keeping your feet flat on the floor and chest up, stand up. Make sure that your knees don’t go beyond your toes. This exercise can be modified by using a chair to sit and stand up from.


Bridges are a great exercise for strengthening the muscles on the back of our legs – the hamstrings and glutes. This exercise is also great for opening up the hips after sitting a lot throughout the day. This exercise can be performed in bed or on the floor. This exercise is performed lying down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips by squeezing your glutes and digging the feet into the ground. Slowly lower your hips back down. For an added challenge, hold the bridge at the top for up to 30 seconds.


Push-ups allow us to build upper body strength while also activating the core. This exercise can be easily modified for all skill levels. Push-ups can be done against a wall, against the kitchen countertop, from the knees, or from the toes. A wall push-up is a great place for beginners to start. To perform this exercise, stand about arms width away with both hands on a wall. Hands should be about shoulder width apart. Bend elbows to the lower the chest towards wall. Once the chest is close to the wall (but not touching), straighten the arms and return to the beginning position. With this exercise it’s important to keep the core engaged so the back stays straight. 


This exercise is a pose found in many yoga practices. It challenges your balance while also strengthening your back and abdominal muscles.  Strong back and abdominal muscles are important for maintain good balance and prevent back pain. To perform this exercise, get on your hands and knees. Start by reaching one arm forward, straight out in front of you. Return the arm to the floor and repeat with the other arm. Now, try to lift one leg out behind, as if you are kicking the wall behind you. For this exercise, it’s important to keep your tummy drawn in, and to avoid arching the back. For an added challenge, try combine arm and leg movements – reaching opposite arm and legs out at the same time.


Lunges are great exercises for strengthening our leg muscles and working on balance. This exercise will help make it easier to get up and down from the floor. To perform this exercise, take a step forward with one leg and bend both knees. Remember, the front knee shouldn’t go beyond the toes, and the back knee should hover a few inches off the ground. This exercise can be modified by limiting the bend in the knees. This exercise can challenge your balance. For safety, we recommend you stand next to a chair or countertop that you can reach or hold onto.

These exercises are a great place to start for building up muscular strength and endurance. All of this can easily be done with limited space and no special equipment. To incorporate these exercises in a workout routine, try doing two sets of 10 of each exercise. For the lunges, make sure to do 10 on each leg. For a different challenge, try doing a minute of each exercise, and cycle through that two or three times, taking rest as needed. If it’s safe for you to do so, going outside to walk or bike is a great way to round out this workout while getting some fresh air!

Need help developing an at-home workout routine, recover from an injury, or want to learn more? Our exceptional physical therapists at the Des Moines University Clinic can help. We are currently offering virtual appointments for patients, and are sharing our special classes and programs on our Facebook page. Visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1717 to learn more.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Paige Vaden, D.P.T.'21

Paige is from Johnston, Iowa. When she’s not studying, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, staying active, and trying out local restaurants and coffee shops.

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