Standing Exercises for Seniors

by Mar 27, 2023Exercises

Standing leg exercises for older adults

This series is to help older adults stay active, healthy and safe. These exercises are from the SAIL (Staying Active and Independent for Life) program. Make sure you do these exercises by a sink / kitchen counter so you can grasp it firmly for safety. 

Safety Tips for Level 2 SAIL Exercises:

  • Do only the activities you feel safe and comfortable doing
  • Sit tall through all the activities, feet should be shoulder width apart
  • Hold position means hold for 3 secs
  • Overtime, add more activities until you are doing all of them
  • Keep breathing normally, do not hold your breath
  • If necessary, begin with a few of the activities, but do them several times a day
  • Overtime, hold on less of the sink or counter

If any of these activities add to your pain or shortness of breath, stop and rest. Do less another day, talk with your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Heel Taps

  • Grasp the counter firmly
  • Start with one foot, lift your heel off the ground, tap the heel and then repeat on that same foot, 5-10 repetitions
  • Repeat this on the other foot


Toe Taps

  • Grasping the counter firmly, lift your toes off the ground, one foot at a time
  • Make sure you’re not leaning back, if you have problems with ankle mobility/stiff ankles, you might want to lean really far back which can be very dangerous
  • Staying nice, tall and upright, while you lift your toes off the ground
  • Repeat this 5 times
  • To make this harder, you can increase repetitions or the amount of time you hold the heel raise

Heel Raises

  • Grasping the counter firmly, lift both your heels off (this is also called a calf raise)
  • Make sure you’re nice and upright, looking straight ahead, you’re not leaning backward or forward
  • Do 5-10 repetitions

Two Leg Toe Tap

  • Grasping the counter firmly, lift your toes as if you’re tapping your toes to music
  • Some people might find this difficult because they don’t have the greatest mobility through their ankles
  • If you start leaning back while trying to tap your toes, this is actually very dangerous, we would not recommend doing this if you can’t stay upright
  • If you’re unable to do this with 2 feet, try just doing this with one foot at a time

Marching on the Spot

  • Standing nice and close to the countertop with your feet about shoulder-width apart, start by marching, alternating your feet for about 10 seconds
  • Rest
  • The height is up to you, the lower the height, the easier it will be
  • To make this harder, lift your leg a bit higher but be aware of where your counter is because you don’t want to hit your shin or knee
  • To make this even more challenging, you can try to hold the counter less by hovering your hands over the counter

Mini Squats

  • Start by grasping the counter firmly with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Pretend like you’re sitting back in a chair, meaning drive your hips back rather than bending your knees over your toes
  • Return to upright position, standing nice and tall through your chest
  • To make this more challenging, you can increase the amount of repetitions or if you feel safe lifting your hands slightly off the counter, you can have them floating over

Alternating Leg Out

  • Start by grasping the counter firmly, lift one leg off the ground and bring it out to the side like you’re doing a snow angel
  • Alternate your right foot then your left foot, weight shifting your weight onto one leg as you kick out with the other
  • Make sure that you keep your foot / your toes facing forward and not out to the side
  • To make this more challenging you can increase your repetitions or lifting your hands up

Alternating Leg Behind

  • Start by grasping the counter firmly, weight shift onto your left leg and kick your right leg behind you
  • Return to start position
  • Do this slow and steady, making sure that you’re keeping your toes pointed straight ahead of you
  • To make this a bit harder, you can increase repetitions or hold the counter less (just placing your fingertips on the counter, for example)

Tap Dancing

  • Standing close to the counter with your hands on the counter, shift your weight over to the left while tapping your foot in 3 different directions, making sure that you’re lifting your foot and not dragging it around
  • Tap it out to the side, return to start position
  • Tap it out to the back, return to start position
  • Tap it out to the front, return to start position
  • Switch legs and repeat
  • If this is too easy, you can increase the speed to improve your agility or raise your hands off the counter.


Check out the video below to follow along with the exercises in real time.