Tai Chi is a Chinese form of martial arts that involves slow, controlled and low-impact movements that can be easy for seniors--even those with limited movement. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, tai chi can help seniors feel steadier on their feet as well as improving their hand eye coordination. The National Association of Orthopedic Nurses endorses tai chi for seniors seeking to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and get gentle aerobic exercise.
Touch the Sky
This is a simple, beginner's-level tai chi exercise described in Domingo Colon's guide "Senior's Tai Chi Workout: Improve Balance, Strength and Flexibility." Sit up straight in a comfortable chair. Place your hands in your lap with your palms turned upward and your fingertips pointing toward one another. As you inhale slowly and deeply, raise your hands to chest level in front of you, turn your palms outward and lift your hands above your head. Do not reach too far with your arms; keep your elbows relaxed and slightly bent. As you exhale slowly and deeply, relax your arms further and gently lower them to your sides. At the end of the breath, return your hands to the starting position with your palms turned upward. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times. This exercise is an effective warm-up before performing more intensive exercises and is a good way to learn how to coordinate breathing with movement.
Shooting the Bow
This is a simple standing exercise, as described by The Walking Tiger Tai Chi Club. Stand with your feet spread about shoulder-width apart and your arms relaxed at your sides. Round your back and bend your knees slightly, looking straight ahead with a relaxed posture. Make fists with your hands and place them directly in front of your face with your fingers facing you and the heels of your palms touching at the sides. As you inhale slowly and deeply, pivot at the waist to face to your left, extending your left hand directly in front of you. Your left hand should open with your palm facing outward; your left arm should be relaxed and slightly bent. At the same time you make this move, pull back slightly with your right fist, as if shooting a bow and arrow. Exhale slowly and deeply as you return to your starting pose. On your next breath, repeat the exercise but turn to the right and reach outward with the right hand. Complete up to 10 cycles.
The Golden Lion Shakes its Mane
Colon recommends this exercise. Sit up straight in a comfortable chair, hands resting lightly on your thighs. Breathe deeply and comfortable, and as you exhale, lean forward until you can feel the stretch in your lower back. As you near the end of your range of forward motion, twist your shoulders to one side, allowing your head and neck to turn with your shoulders and spine. Inhale slowly as you twist back toward facing forward and sit up to your starting position. On the next exhalation, repeat the motion, only turn to the opposite side. Reverse the movement again as you inhale, returning to the starting position. Complete up to 10 full cycles on each side.