Finding the motivation to exercise daily is hard enough without the added stress of the pandemic. If you’re stuck at home avoiding gyms or workout classes, it can feel almost impossible to stick with a workout routine. However, there are plenty of exercises that can be done at home. For seniors specifically, it’s especially important to continue exercising, whether it’s in the living room, outside on the patio or at a gym with social distancing policies in place.
As we age, there’s a tendency to avoid exercising because of the perceived difficulties; but if physical activity is avoided for long enough, muscles begin to atrophy and it becomes harder for seniors to perform activities of daily living, which are necessary to survive.
Even though we’re staying safe at home, incorporating just a bit of exercise each day has far reaching benefits. Benefits of exercise for seniors include a reduced risk of falling, increased cognitive ability, increased cardiovascular health, a better night’s sleep – and much more.
The first step to exercising each day is setting aside a certain amount of time in your schedule. This could be as little as 10-20 minutes to start. Once working out becomes easier and more routine, time can be increased. But seniors shouldn’t be working out to the point of muscle failure or extreme fatigue/soreness. Remember: before doing any exercises, it is important to stretch.
For seniors looking to work out at home, consider trying the following.
Exercise for Seniors
Yoga can be a complete exercise routine all on its own. There are an abundance of free, online yoga classes that have become available since the pandemic began. There are also online yoga classes that can be purchased, taught by instructors who would normally teach studio classes.
If you’ve never done yoga, a good place to start is YouTube. When you become more comfortable, consider joining an online studio. Yoga health benefits include everything from balance and strength to a better overall mood. Yoga also helps with chronic pain when done gently and slowly.
One of the most common causes for falls among seniors is loss of balance. Luckily, there are ways to improve balance. First, try a one-legged stance. Do this by holding on to a chair and lifting one leg straight out in front while the other foot remains on the floor. Hold this position for as long as possible. Eventually, try doing this without the assistance of the chair if possible.
A similarly good exercise is the reverse leg raise. Stand behind a chair, holding the back, and lift one leg straight back without bending. Hold this position for 1-5 seconds and repeat 15 times per leg. After this, leg raises can also be done to the side, using the same technique (one leg on the ground and one leg raised to the side).
Another good balance exercise is walking heel to toe in a straight line. Try this for twenty steps to improve leg strength and balance.
Currently, dumbbell weights are scarce and when they are available, they’re often backordered for months. Instead of relying on weights, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises that can be done, including wall pushups if you are not comfortable with floor pushups. Wall pushups are essentially the same, but done standing against the wall. This lessens the amount of weight that has to be pushed to complete one rep. Try starting with 5-10 reps a day and increase from there.
Another great bodyweight exercise is chair squats. Essentially, you perform a squat with a chair behind you for support and then stand up. A couch would also work, but could be potentially trickier due to the soft surface. Do this 10 times and you’ll likely feel the burn. For seniors who have trouble getting up from a chair unassisted, this may not be the best exercise. Always be aware of your limitations and ask for assistance if needed.
One of the best, and most relaxing, exercises for seniors who are still able, is to take a daily walk. The walk does not have to be far, but even walking for 20 minutes a day offers benefits for the whole body. If you haven’t been walking during the pandemic, you’ll be surprised to see how popular this activity is right before sundown. Not only is it great exercise, but it helps you feel connected to people even if you are remaining socially distant.
Lastly, for those who aren’t into traditional exercises, try gardening. For people in colder climates, you may have to wait until after winter; but with all of our new-found time at home, gardening can be a beneficial new hobby. Or, if you don’t want to wait, try starting with a container garden in the house. Tending to a garden allows us to exercise and move our bodies without even realizing we’re doing it.
Whatever you decide to do, always remember to stay within your personal limitations, and if all of these exercises are uncomfortable or not possible to perform, consult with your healthcare provider for some activities tailored to meet your physical ability. Although it may seem hard at first to integrate working out into your routine, the long-term effects of physical activity will make you glad you started.