Five Ways to Spice Up Your Exercise Program

Five Ways to Spice Up Your Exercise Program

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles Exercise

Group exercise and movement is a crucial staple of a well-rounded activity program. It offers the opportunity for residents to move intentionally, working on fine and large motor skills, as well as improving strength, flexibility, endurance, and range of motion. 
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Group exercise and movement is a crucial staple of a well-rounded activity program. It offers the opportunity for residents to move intentionally, working on fine and large motor skills, as well as improving strength, flexibility, endurance, and range of motion. 

Thanks to exercise being easily adaptable and social, it is often a daily part of the activity program at most communities. Morning exercise gives residents a chance to get moving after breakfast, visit with friends, and hear what’s going on for the rest of the day from activity staff. 

However, daily exercise can get a bit redundant if you are doing the same things each time you gather your group. Your activity staff can get bored or complacent, and your participants won’t get as many of the physical or cognitive benefits of exercise if it is always the same. 

Keep your program spiced up with a few of our tips. Remember, you don’t have to implement all of these at the same time. Try adding new parts every once in a while to keep things interesting for all involved.

1. Change the Movement

Begin to energize your exercise program by adding new styles of movement. While the traditional Sit and Be Fit exercise groups are excellent, you can also introduce something new perhaps weekly or monthly to add interest to your exercise program. You may even find that different participants come along to try it, and that is great! New movement could reach a new audience.


  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Stretching
  • Weights or resistance bands
  • Walking groups
  • Chair aerobics
  • Balance work
  • Ballroom, Square, or other types of dancing
  • Pilates
  • Swimming or water-based classes
  • Cycling
  • Drum circles

Remember, movement doesn’t always have to come from a structured group exercise class. Try some of these fun ideas for movement in a game setting.

2. Vary the Music

Another easy way to change up your exercise class quickly, and without teaching your activity staff a new exercise technique is to change the music that you use. When running an exercise class, your music selection truly sets the tone for the class - will it be relaxing and restorative or energizing and upbeat?

You can vary your music selection and stock up your music source (iPod, CD player, Amazon playlist, etc.) based on:

  • Upcoming holidays: Use holiday music or remixes for your exercise soundtrack
  • Monthly themes for your activity department: Doing a beach month? Play steel drum music for your exercise groups that month. Mardi Gras month? Jazz music it is.
  • Take requests: Involving residents during the exercise program by asking them to choose a song will keep them engaged. If you do use an Alexa, Google Home, or another device for your exercise music, encourage residents to ask for the song themselves by using the technology correctly. Hey Alexa, play When the Saints Go Marching In!
  • Organise live music for your exercise class as a special treat. For example, invite a harpist to play during your tai chi class, a flute player for your yoga class, or a marching snare drum line for your walking club. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s sure to draw a crowd!
  • Include a sing-a-long. Singing while doing exercise can provide excellent breath work and can help residents know if they are pushing too hard (they should be able to talk and sing while moving during most low impact classes).

3. Use Props

Sometimes it just takes a bit of forethought to purchase a handful of new items to use as props to make your exercise class feel more exciting. Keep props in a bin to pull out when things feel a bit dull or drab, and search your activity closet for items you may already have that you can use as props during exercise classes.

Prop inspiration:

  • Curling ribbon, yarn, or streamers
  • Holiday wreaths
  • Hand weights or resistance bands
  • Stress balls
  • Tennis balls, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, etc.
  • Balloons
  • Plastic Easter eggs filled with popcorn kernels and taped together
  • Tambourines
  • Drums
  • Ribbon wands
  • Beach balls
  • Towels or scarves
  • Jingle bells
  • Top hats, baseball caps, etc.

Use your props to encourage new movement and make old movements more visually interesting. Try to theme props to match your music for an extra-fun class that will seem like a performance.

4. Get Some Help from Guests

Consider inviting a guest facilitator once per month. Give your staff members a break from leading and encourage your team to participate instead to learn new approaches from other instructors throughout the community. Look for guest instructors at:

  • Your local senior center
  • The parks and rec department
  • Zumba class
  • A local yoga studio
  • Jazzercise class
  • Silver Sneakers® instructor

You can also invite people within your community to lead exercise every once in awhile. It’s fun for the residents and it can be enjoyable for the guest instructor too. Just be sure to give the guest instructor plenty of preparation time and resources so they can be successful. Ideas could be:

  • Administrator
  • Director of Nursing
  • Caregiver
  • Family member
  • A favorite performer or entertainer
  • Chef
  • Maintenance Director
  • Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapist 

Finally, you can also get inspiration and learn new ways to facilitate exercise class by using technology. Try using a YouTube video to lead group exercise a few times per month. This can be especially helpful when you are trying out new exercises, like yoga or tai chi. Search for senior-specific movement, and be sure you screen it first to see if your residents will enjoy it.

5. Diversify Groups

Finally, if your community serves residents with a wide variety of abilities and challenges, one big group exercise class once per day may not be meeting everyone’s needs. Instead, you may consider diversifying your groups to better serve some of your seniors.

You can implement this by keeping your current group exercise class (if it is well attended), and adding:

  • A weekly range of motion focused class specifically for lower-functioning residents
  • A fine motor focused class monthly for residents who have arthritis
  • A Calming Walk Club daily focused on giving your wandering residents who are anxious in the evening a healthy movement outlet designed to slowly relax them
  • An Early Rise Exercise group for residents who are up and bored before breakfast is served

Group exercise is such a wonderful way to reach residents daily. Have you ever been bored or noticed your program getting a bit stagnant? I’d love to hear your own ways of keeping things exciting for you and your residents. Tell me in the comments the tips that worked for you so that I can add them to my own list of things to try!

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Comments   Post a Comment

Linda 22nd Sep 2022 Recreation Therapist
You have not included brain gym exercises
Talita 26th Sep 2022
Hi Linda, there are lots of fun brain gym activities that can be found on Golden Carers, here are a few ideas:
Cecilia 21st Sep 2022 Life Enrichment Coordinator
Hi everyone.
Most of my residents are in wheel chair so I use exercise CDs, one in particular called Light and Lively. It has good rhythm and there is a voice coaching the moves. I also go to YouTube and find exercises that is good for sitting and wheel chair, using different ones so that the residents do not get bored with the same exercise. Having music while exercising is good because it keeps the residents timed. Sometimes we play "Balloon Tennis". This game, the residents sits in a circle, we use two inflated balloons, foam noodles and the object is to keep the balloons in the air. So as the balloons get to them they hit it to someone else and they all keep it from falling to the ground. Of course I am there with them for safety and to keep the balloon within the circle. They really enjoy that game and in the process it helps with exercising the shoulders and arms and helps with hand and eye coordination.
I enjoy this site because it has help me as activities director try new things and I have been learning at lot here as well.
I wish everyone all the best and God's blessings.
Susan 21st Sep 2022 Activity Director
Hi Cecilia
Thank you for all the great information I’m sure will be helpful
Lorna 21st Sep 2022 Activities Coordinator
Great idea Cecelia to use foam noodles, I usually use fly swats ! I’m going to get the foam noodles. Thanks for that idea.
God’s blessing on you too.
Talita 26th Sep 2022
Thank you so very much for your feedback Cecilia. Balloon games are so much fun! Wishing you all the best!
Eileen 22nd Jun 2021 RN
What Kind of exercises do ya'll recommend for the nursing home setting?
Susan 22nd Jun 2021 Activity Director
I think the ideas and comments in this article are great ideas Eileen
It depends on your residents of course
See what they respond best to
Let me know if you have any specific questions
Tara 17th Jan 2020 RAO
Music is one of the tools I use however sometimes it is hard for me to find good exercise music. Any suggestions. I also ask one of the residents to run the exercise and I assist with anyone who needs assist.
Susan 18th Jan 2020 Activity Director
Hi Tara
Music is a pretty individualized thing because it depends on the group you are working with
I like YMCA
The hokey pokey
When the Saints go marching in
And the ideas suggested in this comment
Susan 16th Jan 2020 Activity Director
Great idea Alison
I like props too
The residents seem more engaged when they use them
Alison 15th Jan 2020 Activities Coordinator
Props are a great way to add variety. I usually run an exercise session ahead of another physical activity. For example, if we will be using bean bags for our challenges, then we also use them for our exercises.
Haley 10th Jan 2020 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: Five Ways To Spice Up Your Exercise Program
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