The Best Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors with Joint Pain

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May 24, 2023

Joint pain can be debilitating, affecting the daily responsibilities and quality of life of many seniors. The simple joys of playing with grandchildren or the ability to climb stairs can quickly become painful and challenging. Seniors may feel helpless in their struggles with joint pain and may contemplate giving up on physical activity altogether as a result of this immense discomfort. 

If you relate to this, you are not alone. However, there is good news: there are ways to manage and alleviate joint pain. One of the most powerful ways one can relieve themselves of joint pain is through participating in low-impact exercise. Allow this article to act as a guide in which you will learn about the best low-impact exercises for seniors with joint pain, and why they work! 


Understanding Joint Pain in Seniors

Before diving right into low-impact exercises for seniors, it is essential to understand the causes and common conditions associated with joint pain in seniors. Although each case of joint pain is unique, there are a few main causes of joint pain that all seniors should consider when looking for treatment: 

  • Osteoarthritis [1] is a prevalent condition among seniors which causes significant discomfort in the joints. It occurs when the protective cartilage that surrounds and protects the joints starts to wear down, which leads to feelings of stiffness and sensitivity. Seniors are most likely to begin to feel symptoms of Osteoarthritis in their knees, hips, hands, and spine, which can make daily activities like walking up the stairs difficult to perform. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis [2] is a chronic autoimmune disease that commonly impacts seniors, causing inflammation and pain in the joints. In contrast with osteoarthritis, which affects the cartilage, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints. The deterioration of the joint lining often leads to swelling, stiffness, and joint deformity. Seniors experiencing rheumatoid arthritis often experience symptoms including, but not limited to, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and of course, joint pain. 
  • Bursitis [3] is a condition common among seniors that causes inflammation of the bursae. The bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints. Bursitis typically affects the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, and those affected may experience localized pain, swelling, and a limited range of motion in the affected joint. 

These conditions, as well as other possible joint pain-causing conditions, can make the most simple of movements feel impossible. If you believe you may have one of these conditions or would like to learn more about the cause of your joint pain, please consult a medical professional. 


Factors to Consider Before Starting an Exercise Routine: 

You may feel excited to get started on planning your new exercise routine. Although it is wonderful to feel motivated, there are a few important factors for all seniors to consider before embarking on an exercise program of any kind. First, you should consult your doctor and let them know about your exercise plans. Although most individuals think any type of exercise is great for you, seniors must take extra precautions and avoid certain exercises that may exacerbate joint pain or lead to other ailments. Your doctor knows what’s best for you, so take advantage of their knowledge and advice before jumping right into exercise. 

Additionally, taking the proper safety precautions is extremely important before starting to exercise. Wearing the proper footwear and warming up before you exercise are essential to prevent injury or strains. 


Best Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors with Joint Pain: 

  • Walking and Nordic Walking [4]
    The most simple of this list—walking is an excellent low-impact exercise to help work out your muscles without causing strain or excess pain. Taking a daily 15-minute walk helps to improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and enhance joint flexibility. Not to mention, walking exposes you to the warm, sunny weather (wear sunscreen!) and gets you outside in the fresh air. If you find that walking normally irritates your joints, feel free to try “Nordic walking,” which involves using poles in each hand as you take steps and adds an extra level of stability, as well as upper body engagement, to your workout. 
  • Swimming and Water Aerobics
    If you’re looking for an excuse to cool off at the pool, swimming, and water aerobics may be for you! Exercising in water helps reduce the impact on joints, making it an ideal choice for seniors with joint pain [5]. Swimming and water aerobics, such as standing water push-ups or aqua-jogging, provide a full-body workout, improve cardiovascular fitness, and increase muscle strength while promoting joint pain relief. 
  • Cycling and Stationary Biking
    Cycling is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on the joints. It also helps improve your lower body strength and cardiovascular fitness. Stationary biking is often the better bet for seniors, as it offers you a safe, controlled environment in which you can exercise indoors and avoid hills/inclines. 
  • Tai Chi and Yoga
    Tai Chi and yoga both focus on subtle movements, balance, and flexibility. Tai Chi, in particular, helps improve joint range of movements, reduce feelings of stiffness, and can even cure chronic pain with its slow and flowing movement [6]. Yoga incorporates slow stretches, poses, and breathing exercises, that not only promote flexibility and joint pain relief but also help you remain relaxed. 
  • Resistance Training and Strength Exercises
    This may sound intimidating, but strength training is essential for seniors with joint pain, as it helps support and protect the joints. By using resistance bands, light weights, or calisthenic exercises, you will improve your muscle strength and experience joint pain relief. 
  • Chair Exercises and Seated Workouts
    Seniors with very limited ability may find that even standing is strenuous for them and their joints. If you fall into this category, don’t worry, because there is still a highly effective exercise for you. Chair exercises offer a convenient and effective option for modified exercises, such as leg lists, seated marching, and arm curls. These exercises can help improve strength and circulation [7]. 


Tips for Creating a Successful Exercise Routine + More Considerations:

It is common to become motivated to start an exercise routine, only to find that after a few days, you have fallen behind. Although this is normal, there are a few tips you can follow to make the most out of your exercise routine: 

  • Set realistic goals and track your progress. There is no such thing as too small of a goal or too little progress! Although it’s great to be ambitious, create an exercise plan with your doctor that works for your lifestyle, routine, and physical health. Then, track your progress by writing down the changes you feel in your body. On some days, this may be little-to-nothing, but it’s still worth tracking for future reflection. 
  • Incorporate variety into your routine. Performing the same exercises can get boring after a few sessions. Try performing new exercises each time you work out for a more dynamic routine. 
  • Listen to your body. If an exercise doesn’t feel right, pause and modify. If that modification still causes discomfort, try a different exercise. Improving your physical health and relieving pain is the goal here, so the last thing you want to do is strain yourself! 


Although conditions that cause joint pain may pose challenges, they do not have to define or limit the lives of seniors. Regular exercise is the key to relieving joint pain and maintaining overall health for seniors. By incorporating low-impact exercises into your routine, you may improve your joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall well-being. Remember to always consult with a healthcare professional before creating an exercise plan. It’s never too late to start taking proactive steps toward a more active and pain-free future!