Science knows that chronic inflammation can be managed by adopting a healthy lifestyle. That includes eating more whole foods with fiber and less processed foods — especially sugar — maintaining a healthy weight, getting sufficient sleep, managing stress, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and getting consistent exercise, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
The amount of exercise shown to reduce chronic inflammation is only 20–30 minutes per day. This coincides with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendations of at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise throughout the week. Plus, they suggest adding 2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities involving all the major muscle groups. These recommendations can help seniors improve in all 4 types of exercise — endurance, balance, flexibility, and strength — allowing them to maintain an active lifestyle of their own choosing.
The Anti-Inflammation-Plus Workout
Here’s a 20-minute circuit-style workout that checks off all the boxes.
- It strengthens all the major muscle groups — chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and abs/core.
- Includes all four types of exercise — endurance, balance, flexibility, and strength
- Has all seven essential moves seniors need to do to stay independent — push, pull, hinge, rotate, squat, lunge, and gait
- Helps improve balance
- Helps reduce inflammation
|Exer (1 round 1 set)||Duration||Muscles Targeted||Benefits|
|Warm-Up||5 min||all||flexibility, gait, endurance|
|Wall Push-Ups||30 sec||chest, shoulders, arms, abs/core||push, strength, posture|
|Lat Row w/Towel||30 sec||back, arms, legs, abs/core||pull, strength, posture|
|Squats||30 sec||legs, abs/core||hinge, squat, strength, balance, endurance|
|Bicep Curls w/Towel||30 sec||arms, abs/core||grip strength|
|Curtsy w/Arm Push Bk||30 sec||arms, abs/core, legs||strength, posture, balance, endurance|
|Standing Russian Twist||30 sec||abs/core, legs||balance, rotate, gait|
|Side Lunge w/Arm Cross||30 sec||abs/core, legs, shoulders||lunge, hinge, posture, balance, endurance|
|Cool Down||10 min||ALL||flexibility|
*Recommendations: add this to your exercise routine 2–3 times a week.
How To Do The Exercises
Warm-Up: Marching in place while swinging your arms or dancing to your favorite upbeat music.
1. Wall Or Counter Push-Ups – Standing
- Stand tall, facing a wall or kitchen counter, an arms-length away.
- Wall: Place palms on the wall, shoulder-width apart, and slightly below shoulder high.
- Counter: Securely grab the counter edge, palms facing down, and arms shoulder-width apart.
- Keep torso tight. Don’t bend at the hips or waist.
- Lower yourself to the wall or counter by bending at the elbows.
- Move the whole body like a plank. Allow heels to come up off the floor.
- Lower yourself to a point that allows you to push back to the starting position.
2. Lat Rows With A Towel – Standing Or Sitting
- Fold a towel lengthwise so you can hold it like a bar.
- Stand or sit tall with shoulder blades down and back, arms shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the towel taut an arm’s length away with palms facing up.
- Keep the arm muscles tight and pull the towel toward your navel by bringing the elbows straight back.
- Extend arms back to front, keeping towel taut, to go back to starting position.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart or a bit wider if your knees are stiff.
- To prevent knee discomfort, the angle of the feet need to be inline with your knees.
- Stand tall, eyes focused straight in front with hands clasped together under the chin.
- Shift weight to your heels as you start to hinge at the hips and bend your knees.
- Lower butt back and over your heels, to keep pressure off the knees.
- Standard squat depth is hips level with knees or whatever feels comfortable to you.
- Come back to start by tightening the thigh muscles and pushing up straight.
A balance component can be added after mastering the squat. Think, sitting on a piano bench!
- Squat, lift the left knee up holding for a count of three.
- Squat, lift the right knee up holding for a count of three.
4. Bicep Curls With A Towel – Standing Or Sitting
- Fold a towel lengthwise so you can hold it like a bar.
- Stand or sit tall with shoulder blades down and back.
- Start with arms straight, close to your sides, palms up holding the towel taut.
- Lift the towel up to the chest for a bicep curl, elbows staying over the hips.
- Lower arms down to start, keeping the towel taut.
5. Curtsy With Arm Push Backs – Standing
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
- Arms straight at your sides, fingers spread apart, and palms facing behind you.
- Take a step back with the left foot and cross behind the right foot.
- Keep your arms tight and press them behind you as you step
- Relax the arms when coming back to start.
- Switch feet, curtsy, and press. Keep alternating feet.
6. Standing Russian Twists
- Stand tall, feet hip-width apart.
- Interlock fingers keeping arms bent and close to your sides.
- Lift the left knee. As you rotate the torso to the left, bring clasped hands to the left hip.
- Bring clasped hands to the front, torso straight, and left foot down to your starting position.
- Switch sides and keep alternating.
7. Side Lunge With Arm Cross — Standing
- Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and arms out horizontal and shoulder-high.
- Step out to the side with your right leg, bending the right knee. Pushing hips and butt back as you cross your arms in front, keep the left leg long.
- Push yourself back to the starting position with the right leg.
- Bring arms back to starting position.
- Switch to the left leg stepping out and alternate which arm crosses on top.
This program can be modified for any fitness level. For more intensity:
- Change the towel to weights or resistance bands.
- Change set durations to 45–50 seconds instead of 30 seconds.
- Increase the number of rounds to 2.
- Do all exercises standing.
For less intensity:
- Change exercise timings to 4–6 repetitions.
- Take longer rest times.
- Sit when it’s an option.
- Only do the exercises where you feel balanced.
- Hold on to something stable if needed.
Don’t skip the 10 minutes of stretching at the end. Stretching is still strengthening. Plus, it’s the best way to help improve joint pain and stiffness, prevent injuries, help decrease stress, and improve posture and balance.
Inflammation – Helpful Or Harmful?
There are two types of inflammation responses: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is initiated by the immune system. It helps the body to heal and recover from an illness or an injury and can last 2–6 weeks. Chronic inflammation is an inflammatory response that somehow gets switched on and doesn’t switch off. Meaning it can last for months or even years. When that happens, it can contribute to the progression of tissue damage and lead to a chronic condition.
In 2014, the Rand Corporation estimated that “nearly 60 percent of Americans had at least one chronic condition, 42 percent had more than one chronic condition, and at least 12 percent of adults had five or more chronic conditions,” according to the National Library of Medicine.
These chronic conditions aren’t just heart disease and strokes. It’s high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, diabetes, allergies and asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, kidney disease, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
For seniors looking forward to an active lifestyle or traveling after retirement, one or more chronic diseases can drastically derail their plans. Limited mobility from a stroke or severe arthritis can make traveling feel too difficult. Diabetes that’s not well controlled could stoke fears of getting too far from home. A constant state of confusion associated with Alzheimer’s or dementia could make traveling nearly impossible. And a bowel disease can easily convince someone that traveling is no longer an option.
These exercises may not be for everyone. Please check with your healthcare professionals before starting any exercise program.