When you’re stuck indoors, it’s tempting to sink into the couch and never get up. If you’re in the habit of going to the gym, walking at the mall or taking a water aerobics class, you’ll need to find a new routine and a new way to get that exercise during this period of sheltering-in-place.
Remember, just 15 minutes of gentle, daily exercise can significantly improve health for older adults. One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, for example, found that older adults who exercised spent 25% less time disabled or injured than those who did not. Other research shows that physical activity can boost mood, add extra years to your life, help you maintain or lose weight, reduce the impact of illness and disease like Alzheimer’s, and enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance.
(If you’re new to exercise, talk to your doctor about your physical fitness goals. Wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes, drink plenty of water, and consider having another person around in case you fall or need help.)
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay active inside, even if you don’t have a home gym. Here are some ideas:
Chair Exercises: If your senior has mobility issues, consider trying some chair exercises together. Here are four chair exercises, with video demonstrations, to get you started.
Indoor walking: If you live in a senior living community, walk through the halls. If you’re at home, walk around the house. Clear any items that might pose a fall hazard, including electrical cords. Or, try marching in place to a little music!
Stretching exercises: Flexibility exercises can help offset the effects of normal decline in joint flexibility and help you remain active and independent. Here’s a good stretching routine, with video instruction, to get you started.
Exercise videos: Remember those Jane Fonda workout videos from the 1980s? No need to fiddle with a videotape these days -- search online for fitness videos. The National Institute on Aging at NIH has a great collection of free “Go4Life” exercise videos tailored to older adults on YouTube.
Fitness apps: One AARP study showed that two-thirds of respondents 50 and older found fitness trackers to be beneficial. Check the app store for your smartphone, tablet or other device for fitness apps that can help you attain health goals like weight loss, track how much you have walked, or teach yoga and simple exercise routines.
Balance exercises: Balance training exercises strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright to improve stability and help prevent falls. Here’s a video with three basic balance exercises to get you started.
Strength exercises: Strength exercises, also called resistance training, works your muscles using resistance. These can mean using your own body weight (push-ups, wall push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, or leg squats), lifting weights or using resistance bands or weight machines at a gym. Strength training helps prevent age-related muscle loss, keeps your bones strong, prevents falls, and promotes mobility and balance. Here are some strength exercises you can do at home with no special equipment.
Finally, remember that during the pandemic, it’s important to keep your senior isolated but not necessarily indoors. If your senior is able, and the weather is good, it’s fine to take a walk or visit a park. Just keep your distance – at least six feet away – from others.
Bonus: all of the above ideas work well when it’s too hot to go out, or the weather’s bad, too!