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Aging Strong: Cardio Exercises for Seniors

by Jessica Hegg October 06, 2018 0 Comments

Senior man wiping sweat with towel after workout

Heart health is more important for seniors than anyone else, protecting older adults from heart disease and helping them retain their mobility longer. That means making time each week for a regular cardio routine is crucial. If you’re looking for a few exercises to get started, take a look at our complete guide here.

Benefits of Cardio Exercises

From improving heart health to reducing stress and anxiety, there are countless benefits to incorporating cardio exercises into your regular fitness routine.

  • Improves Heart Health

    Increasing your heart rate exercises the heart, making it stronger, which can reduce the beats per minute needed to keep your body supplied with oxygen

  • Helps with Weight Loss

    Regular exercise helps burn calories over time, which adds up to reduced body fat and lower weight.

  • Reduces Stress

    Exercise helps the body produce endorphins, the feel-good chemical that lifts your mood and reduces your stress levels. Learn more ways to reduce cortisol here.

  • Improves Memory

    Increased heart rate and blood flow provide nutrients to the brain and consistent exercise over time has been shown to improve memory and brain health

  • Improves Sleep

    The majority of people report trouble sleeping as they age. Staying active has been shown to improve the quality of sleep and increase the overall hours of sleep.

Aerobic Cardio Exercises (No equipment)

If you’re going to get some exercise done, what better place to do it than the gym? Next time you’re at the gym, keep an eye out for any of these machines for a fast and effective cardio workout.

1. Marching

Marching 1 Marching 2

This simple exercise is something everyone can do and is a great way to warm up. Simply place your hands on your hips while standing, raise your knee to your waist, lower, and repeat with the opposite leg. Continue for one minute for a quick warm-up, or even longer to get your heart pumping.

2. Stair Mills

Stair Mills 1 Stair Mills 2

Put your feet wide, a little more than shoulder width apart with toes facing forward. Begin to lean from side to side, bending one knee at a time and adding a punch with your arms. You should feel this in your inner thighs and upper legs.

3. Butt-Kickers

Butt-Kickers 1 Butt-Kickers 2

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend your leg backward, moving your heel toward your butt. Alternate legs and increase the pace for added intensity.

4. Jacob’s Ladder

Jacobs Ladder 1 Jacobs Ladder 2

Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. You can keep your arms at your sides or bent in front of you. Slowly bend your legs to squat until your upper leg is parallel to the floor. Then slowly rise back to a standing position and repeat.

5. Side Steps

Side Steps 1 Side Steps 2

Make sure you have plenty of space on each side for this cardio exercise before you start. Begin with a slight squat, your legs bent just under 45 degrees. Then, reach your right leg out to the side, shuffle to the right, and bring your left leg over to meet its partner. Take another step to the right, and then repeat the process going in the opposite direction. You can move faster or squat more deeply to increase the intensity.

6. Toe Taps

Toe Taps 1 Toe Taps 2

Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, move your right foot forward, cross it to the other side of your opposite leg, and tap the floor with your toe. Then return to your original position and repeat with the other leg.

7. Heel Taps

Heel Taps 1 Heel Taps 2

Here’s another exercise you can try on a step. Rather than facing the step, stand with your right side facing it, leaving one foot on the step and one hanging off the side. Start by bending your right leg until the heel of your left foot touches the ground, and return to the starting position. For the opposite leg, face the opposite direction and repeat the process.

8. Knee Raises

Knee Raises 1 Knee Raises 2

This is a more gentle variation of marches you can try to ease yourself into a cardio workout. Rather than lifting your knee to waist height, raise it only halfway until your leg is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Hold for two to three seconds, and then lower it to the starting position. Do ten reps for each leg.

9. Shoulder Raises

Shoulder Raises 1 Shoulder Raises 2

This is an exercise that can be tried with hand weights for an extra challenge or without for a more gentle workout. Start with your arms at your sides, standing tall. Then, simply raise your arms to each side until they are stretched straight to either side. Then lower them back to the starting position and begin the process again.

10. V-Step

V-Step 1 V-Step 2

Pull out your aerobics step for this exercise and start by facing it about eight inches away from the base. Begin by stepping up, reaching your foot to the side of the step. Raise your body, place your left foot on the other side of the step, and then return to the starting position.

11. High-Knees

High-Knees 1 High-Knees 2

This one’s a bit like marches but with added intensity. Rather than simply lifting your leg to your waist, raise it to your chest or as high as you can. Lower and repeat with the other leg. This will provide a good cardio workout as well as stretch your hamstrings.

12. Hip Rolls

Hip Rolls 1 Hip Rolls 2

Stand with your feet facing forward and hands on your hips. Balance on one leg and alternate bringing each leg up 90 degrees and rotating clockwise out to the side of your body; moving your legs in a big circular motion. Repeat pn both sides moving your legs counterclockwise direction.

13. Arm Circles

V-Step 1 V-Step 2

Hold your arms out to the sides and begin drawing small circles with your hand to the left and right. Move slowly at first, moving in small circles, and then gradually widening the width of the circle for a full shoulder workout. Make sure not to move too quickly to avoid injury.

14. Grape Vine

Grape Vine Step 1 Grape Vine Step 2 Grape Vine Step 3

Grape vines take some space to the left and right, so make sure you have plenty of space before starting. Take your right leg, cross it behind your left leg, and over to the other side. Then, take a step with your left leg to the left. Repeat this process once or twice if you have the room, and then reverse direction.

15. Low Kicks

V-Step 1 V-Step 2

Begin with your shoulders back and your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, raise your foot waist-high by kicking your leg forward while keeping it straight. Make sure to keep your core tight throughout the motion. Then return to the starting position and switch to the opposite leg.

16. Lat Squeezes

Lat Squeezes 1 Lat Squeezes 2

Start by bending both arms at the elbow so each forearm extends ninety degrees from your body, pointing to your left and right. Then, draw your shoulders back and together, squeezing your spine with your shoulder blades. Return to the starting position and repeat. For an added balance challenge, lift one leg to outside as you squeeze your lats.

17. Squat to Calf Raise

Lat Squeezes 1 Lat Squeezes 2

This exercise combines two exercises, making it a great way to work a range of different muscle groups. Start standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees until your upper legs are parallel to the floor. Finally, slowly stand back up and continue the motion by raising your leg to chest height. Alternate between your right or left leg.

18. Curtsie Lunge

Curtsie Lunge 1 Curtsie Lunge 2

Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and begin by crossing your right leg behind and to the left of your left foot. Place your right toe firmly on the ground and lower your right knee slowly until it almost touches the ground. Then repeat the process with your opposite foot. You can increase or decrease the difficulty depending on how low you bring your knee.

19. Speed Skater

Speed Skater 1 Speed Skater 2

This unique exercise combines the movements with a standard lunch with the grapevine exercise described above. Begin by bending both knees and then reaching your right leg diagonally behind and to the left of your left foot. Bend your right arm and straighten your left arm. Then return to the starting position and repeat the motion with your opposite leg. You can increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise based on how far you reach your rear leg.

20. Reverse Lunge-Kee Raise

Reverse Lunge-Kee Raise 1 Reverse Lunge-Kee Raise 2

This exercise combines a backward lunge with a knee rise, making for a fluid exercise that works a variety of muscle groups. Start by standing tall, and then reach your right leg behind you and rest your weight on your toe. Bend your knee slowly, and then raise it back up again. Finally, return to the starting position and continue the motion by raising your leg to chest height. Repeat with the opposite leg and alternate between the two.

21. Standing Side Crunch

Standing Side Crunch 1 Standing Side Crunch 2

This is the perfect exercise for working those core muscles! Start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart and keeping your hands o n the back of your head. Now, bend to your right while lifting your knee until the tip of your elbow meets your kneecap. Then return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite side.

22. Step Ups

Step Ups 1 Step Ups 2

This low-impact exercise is easy enough for anyone to do. You can use an adjustable aerobics step or just the bottom step of any staircase. Start by standing with your toes about eight inches away from the base of the step. Then lift your foot and rest your toe on the edge of the step. Return to the original position and repeat with your other foot.

23. Lateral Step-Ups

Lateral Step-Ups 1 Lateral Step-Ups 2

This exercise works just like the standard step-up, except instead of facing the step, you’re turned 90 degrees to the right. Lift your right leg to step up, straighten your knee, and then lower yourself back down. Repeat this several times and then switch to the opposite foot.

Stationary Cardio

Stationary cardio is any cardiovascular exercise consisting of repetitive motions performed while remaining in a stationary position, typically using equipment such as an elliptical or rowing machine, a stationary bike, or a treadmill.

Pros & Cons

Stationary cardio can be a great way to get your heart pumping, but it’s not for everyone. Take a look at some of the main pros and cons here:


  • Lets you stick your cardio exercise rain or shine
  • Is easier on the joints
  • Home exercise equipment can save time compared to a trip to the gym
  • Lets you customize your workout


  • Not always as exciting or varied as an outdoor bike ride or jog
  • Exercise equipment can sometimes be expensive
  • Many pieces of equipment are bulky and difficult to store.

Shop for At-Home Workout Gear Here

Popular Stationary Equipment

If you want to try stationary cardio for yourself, starting with the right piece of equipment is essential. Learn more about each of these and decide which is the right choice for you.

Find the Best Stationary Cardio Machine for You

  • Rowing Machine

    Rowing Machine
    A rowing machine is a perfect way to exercise your upper body with a relatively slim piece of equipment. Most of them include grippable bars that are pulled backward in a rowing motion. The best models let you customize the resistance for higher or lower difficulty.

  • Elliptical

    Elliptical machines work your upper and lower body simultaneously, making for a more comprehensive workout. They include pedals and bars, which let you keep your arms and legs working constantly. While they don’t take up quite as much space as a treadmill, they are generally bulkier than a rowing machine.

  • Treadmill

    A treadmill may be one of the bulkier pieces of exercise equipment out there, but it’s a great way to get in a jog in any weather. You can set speed and resistance to customize your run and keep track of time and calories burned.

  • Recumbent Bike

    Recumbent Bike
    A recumbent bike is an excellent choice for seniors as it lets them get in an intense cardio workout without all the stress on their joints. An adjustable and comfortable seat can help keep you comfortable and prevent injury while you keep your heart pumping.

Don't have the space for a large machine? Consider a pedal exerciser; the compact version of a recumbent bike that offers portability, easy storage, and a great workout. 

Compare & Shop Pedal Exercisers Here

Other Ways to Get Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardio workouts don’t always mean hitting the gym or following along with a trainer. There are other creative ways that you can mix it up.

  • Try walking and invite your friend along for company. 
  • Jogging, swimming (water aerobics), and bicycling are also great outlets that get your heart rate up.
  • Dancing is another fun option; whether it's alone in your living room or attending an instructor-led class, dance can boost your mood and heart rate.
  • Martial arts, tai chi, and yoga are good low-impact options that are safe on joints that can get that heart rate up.
  • If you’re competitive by nature, consider sports like pickleball, tennis, badminton, or golf (without the cart) but keep in mind what’s safest for your joints and body.

Performing household chores can also provide you with cardiovascular benefits. Tasks such as vacuuming, sweeping, gardening, painting walls, window washing, cleaning out the attic/garage, shoveling, using a push mower, doing renovations, and getting groceries.

Questions About Cardio for Seniors

Find out what others are asking about cardio for seniors.

How much cardio should seniors aim to get?

Ideally, adults 65 years or older should aim to get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity cardio exercise. This equates to about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Are there cardio exercises seniors should avoid?

Older adults need to take care while exercising, as they are more prone to muscle strain and overuse injuries. For this reason, avoid high-impact exercises or those that are overly strenuous. Stick with smooth, gentle motions rather than fast and jerky ones. Avoid holding your breath.

What other types of exercises are beneficial for seniors?

In addition to cardio workouts, there are other types of exercises seniors can try for full-body health. Strength and balance exercises like yoga, pilates, and tai chi are good options. Resistance training is a good way to build muscle without overstraining yourself, as long as you have a good set of exercise bands.

Tips for Exercising Safe & Effectively

For results with any exercise regimen, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips to follow when getting started.

  • Follow FDA-recommended guidelines:

    Before following any guidelines, always check with your doctor. The Academy of Sports Medicine recommends the following guidelines when it comes to exercise:

    • 150 to 300 minutes a week of cardiovascular exercise
    • Resistance training 2-3 times per week

  • Warm up and cool down

    It’s always a good idea to give your muscles a chance to warm up before working out and cool down afterward. Make sure to stretch gently before or after to avoid muscle strain.

  • Start slow and build up

    There’s nothing wrong with an intense workout, but don’t forget to start slowly. Rather than jumping right into your most strenuous exercises, start with easier ones and gradually build up.

  • Do something you enjoy

    The key to an effective workout is keeping your motivation up, so it makes sense to pick a workout routine you enjoy. If you’re just starting, try a few different types of exercise to see what sticks.

  • Consider working with a trainer

    Not everyone needs a personal trainer, but if you want to focus on working on your form, it might be a good idea. A qualified trainer can help keep your motivation up and tailor a routine that fits your body’s needs.

  • Stay hydrated

    If you’re not careful, improper exercise habits can do more harm than good. The most important thing to keep in mind is to stay hydrated. This will keep your body working smoothly, and ready to sweat!

  • Set realistic goals

    Especially if you’re starting, it can be easy to overwhelm yourself with too much exercise. Instead, try to set achievable goals and continue to raise the bar as you progress.

  • Make it social

    It’s always better to exercise with others. Not only does it make it more fun, but you’re more inclined to continue exercising to meet up with your exercise buddies again.

Get Moving Again With Cardio Exercises for Seniors

While cardio is typically regarded as an intense, rigorous method of exercise, there are ways that seniors can get active without doing damage. From getting out and about to simple routines at home, there’s plenty to choose from. We hope you found this list useful in your quest to get healthier!

Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.

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