Quarantine workouts for Seniors

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When COVID-19 started to spread worldwide, many vulnerable seniors decided to self-quarantine. Now that the pandemic has been going on for more than a year, how has being under quarantine affected the health of these older adults?

One major drawback of all this time inside has been an increase in inactivity. Being sedentary in your senior years puts you at a higher risk of disability and death. So to combat this, it’s important to build movement into your day-to-day activities at home. 

If you’re a senior who wants to stay in shape and maintain good bone and joint health from home, here’s what you need to know before beginning a quarantine workout routine.

Why physical exercise is important for seniors

Adding physical activity to your weekly routine has many benefits. Compared to seniors who are sedentary, staying active as you age leads to better health outcomes like:

  • Increased strength
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Reduced illness and chronic disease
  • Improved mobility and balance
  • Better mental health

On the other hand, past research shows that extended home confinement can greatly impact the health of older people. Inactive older adults can lose strength and endurance, see increased muscle loss, and are more likely to become resistant to insulin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people over the age of 65 with no limiting health conditions engage in 150 minutes of physical activity a week, with at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activity. But think of that number as a milestone. By starting slow and working your way up to it, you’ll avoid injury and be able to maintain a consistent exercise schedule.

How to get the most out of your workouts in quarantine

Dr. Stuart McGill is an expert in Spine Biomechanics. He’s spent over 30 years researching, teaching, and treating pain and mobility issues in everyone from office workers to high-performing athletes. He believes exercising should be guided by your capabilities

So before you grab that dumbbell, here’s some advice.

Operate within your limits

When it comes to exercise, everyone starts at different points. How hard you push yourself can depend on how fit you are, how flexible you are, as well as your injury history—so it’s important to listen to your body and adjust moves to suit you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself, but the safest workout is one where you lightly challenge yourself without going overboard. Operating within your limits will ensure you gradually get stronger and more agile, without hurting yourself.

Don’t train until you get sore 

McGill suggests working out in smaller chunks of time instead of training for lengthy periods of time. Smaller bursts of exercise can help seniors recover more quickly and see better progress over time. If you find yourself feeling sore after a session, he recommends taking it easier during workouts or limiting your workout time. By breaking up your workout into manageable parts that are spread out over a few days, you should feel better after each session.

Slowly increase the challenge 

Every time you do a workout, you’re putting stress on your muscles so they adapt. While it’s true that the more exercise you do, the stronger and fitter you’ll become—remember that slow and steady wins the race. It’s much better to gradually increase the difficulty of workouts over a period of time and avoid too much stress on your muscles and joints. According to McGill, “They should be small, graded steps where increases in load, or duration, are never larger than 10 per cent.”

Find an accountability buddy

Love it or loathe it, exercise is an important element of happier aging. If you can’t find the motivation to exercise as consistently as you’d like, it may be time to find an accountability buddy. A person in your life who is willing to check in with you about your progress or someone who will work out with you on a regular schedule. 

If you live alone, caregivers can fill this role. Expert senior caregivers can support your fitness goals at home or take you to extra-curricular fitness activities in your area

 

How to can get started with quarantine workouts

If you’re not sure where to start, here are three basic quarantine exercises you can incorporate into your routine. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before taking on a new exercise program. Having a caregiver to supervise will also ensure you’re doing the exercises in a safe, controlled way.

Lower-body strength training exercises

Strength training prevents age-related muscle loss, reduces cognitive decline, and supports bone and joint health so you can live a pain-free life. It can also lessen any symptoms of arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes. The chair squat is a foundational move that helps you get stronger by using your own body weight.

The chair squat:

This exercise develops lower-body strength, increases flexibility, and builds stability and balance. Here’s how it’s done

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart directly in front of a chair. 
  2. Bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower your body to the chair. 
  3. Sit or touch the seat of the chair for a moment and relax.
  4. Push through your feet and squeeze your glutes to return to standing. 

Upper-body strength training exercises

Like lower-body strength, having a strong upper body can stave off muscle loss and prevent illness. It also supports everyday activities like grocery shopping, gardening, and lifting heavy objects. If you don’t feel strong enough for a full on push-up, start small. The wall push-up is an excellent way to build strength in your arms, shoulders, and chest.

The wall push-up:

Wall push-ups are accessible to everyone because they don’t require gym equipment. All you need is a wall that’s clear of furniture and objects. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Stand away from the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend your arms straight out and place your hands on the wall.
  3. Keep your arms parallel to the ground and your hands vertical against the wall.
  4. Lightly push against your hands and let your body move towards the wall.
  5. Push against your hands again to move your body back to the starting position.

Mobility training exercises

Mobility training helps support proper joint and muscle function in the body. Having good mobility can improve your overall quality of life, prevent injury, and give you full range of motion as you age. The side hip raise is a great starter mobility exercise.

The side hip raise: The hips connect the upper and lower body and are vital to the proper function of both. Hip exercises improve balance, build leg strength and firm the gluteal muscles. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Stand behind a chair, holding the back of it with both of your hands for stability.
  2. Keep your upper back straight and lift your right hip as high to the side as you comfortably can. Point your toes.
  3. Repeat this movement on your left side.
  4. Do 10 lifts on each side.

Try out these moves for a month and see if you feel the difference. If it no longer feels challenging, that’s probably a sign you’re ready to level up!

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If you’re looking for a companion or caregiver to support your home workouts, find our list of home care services here.

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