7 exercises for the over-70s while self-isolating

Stephen Macconville Stephen Macconville Fitness Lead for Flagship Programmes
Stephen MacConville, Fitness Lead for Flagship Programmes at Nuffield Health gives us his top tips on how the over 70s can stay active during self-isolation.

It’s important to use our muscles regularly to maintain bone strength, muscle strength, coordination, and keep the heart healthy, as well as self-confidence and good emotional wellbeing. The following exercises are all designed for you to do in your own home and will help you stay fit and healthy.

Recommended equipment and space

  • A bottle of water
  • A towel
  • A clear space where you are not going to slip or fall on an object.
  • A wall space


  • Chair (with arms if needed)
  • Stable surface to hold for balance exercises
  • A broom or stick handle

Chair squats (sit to stand)

To strengthen the muscles of the lower body, bones and joints

  • Stand in front of a chair with your feet as far apart as your hips
  • Bend your knees while keeping your shoulders and chest upright
  • Lower your bottom slowly (4 seconds) so you sit down
  • Then push your body back up to return to a standing position (2-4 seconds)
  • Try to avoid using your hands
  • Perform this 5-10 times or for a duration of 20-60 seconds, take a rest after for 40-60 seconds
  • Repeat this action 2-5 times.

The stork (single leg stands)

To improve balance and bone strength

  • Stand facing a non-moveable chair or surface for support if you need it
  • Warm up with a slow march for 1 minute, gradually raising your knees higher
  • With your arms at your side, slowly lift your left foot and balance on your right foot for 10 seconds
  • Slowly lower your left foot and repeat with your right foot
  • Aim to build up the duration by 5 seconds each time as you feel more comfortable
  • To increase difficulty, try raising your hand above your head on the same side or slowly swinging your arms like you’re running
  • Repeat on both legs 3-5 times each.

Wall snow angels

To improve mobility, posture and strength

  • Stand with your upper back, head, bum and heels against the wall
  • Start with your hands out to the side with your palms facing outwards
  • Whilst maintaining contact with the wall, slowly raise your hands above your head, stretching as wide and as high as possible
  • Slowly return to your starting position and then repeat – aim to complete 5-10 times
  • Perform this 2-3 times, take a break for 40-60 seconds before repeating again.


To improve upper body and back mobility

  • Holding a stick or broom horizontally behind your head, stand with your feet hip width apart and your knees slightly bent
  • If you don’t have a broom, put your hands on your shoulders keeping your arms at 90 degrees
  • Keeping the broom straight, turn to your right as far as comfortable, twisting through your hips
  • Then slowly turn to the other side, building up your range of movement
  • Repeat 10-20 times
  • Perform this 2-5 times, take a break for 40-60 seconds before repeating again.

Wall push-ups

To maintain upper body strength and bone mineral density

  • Stand at arm’s length in front of a wall which is safe
  • Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at shoulder height
  • If you are just starting out have your feet closer to the wall
  • If you want more of a challenge have your feet further back form the wall
  • Keep your feet planted as you slowly bring your body towards the wall, aiming to keep your body straight
  • Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight again
  • Aim for 5-10 slow repetitions
  • Perform this 2-5 times, take a break for 40-60 seconds before repeating again.

Overhead lifts

To improve upper body strength and daily functional movement

  • In a standing position hold 2 evenly weighted objects like cans of beans or bottles
  • Start with your hands down by your sides and your palms facing away from you
  • Keeping your elbows by your side, slowly bring the objects up to your shoulders then slowly extend your arms above your head
  • Reverse the action until your hands are back by your side
  • Repeat the movement 5-10 times
  • Perform this 2-5 times, take a break for 40-60 seconds before repeating again.

Stair stepping

To improve coordination, aerobic fitness for heart health and lower body strength

  • Stand in front of a staircase or step and step up with your right foot, then up with your left
  • Then step back down with your right, then back down with your left. Repeat 10 times or for a period of 20-60 seconds
  • Take a rest before changing the leading foot
  • If you need a little support, hold on gently to the railing, or gently touch the wall with your finger tip
  • If this is comfortable, to increase difficulty, hold some weight in each hand such as a bottle of water
  • Perform this 2-5 times, take a break for 40-60 seconds before repeating again.

Last updated Monday 14 June 2021

First published on Friday 27 March 2020