Exercise is an important way for older adults to keep their immune systems strong, as well as to manage chronic health conditions. During this unprecedented time in our history, this is more important now than ever.
For older adults that have health conditions, it is especially important to keep your exercise routine. Those with heart disease, diabetes, or other metabolic or circulatory conditions will need to make sure they stay healthy through exercise. Exercise is also an important way to manage bone and joint condition such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Keeping a routine at home will ensure your body continues to stay healthy and reduce pain associated with many health conditions. During these stressful times, exercise is an important way to prioritize mental health and brain health as well.
Some guidelines for older adults include prioritizing moderate cardiovascular exercise first in order to benefit the immune system as well as circulatory, heart and metabolic conditions. Stretching and mobility exercises, as well as strength and balance exercises are all important components of a home routine for seniors. During this time of health crisis in our country, it is wise to keep workouts more moderate by avoiding higher risk activities. Moderate level cardio and stretching can be performed a few times a day and can provide a better benefit than one longer exercise session. Sleep is very important for immune system. To encourage a healthy sleep cycle, I would suggest starting in the morning and exercising in 2-3 short bouts of 20 minutes through the day. Exercises of higher intensity can be performed earlier in the day, with gentler exercise and mindfulness activities later in the day to encourage a good night’s sleep. Keeping a routine during these times of shifting or non-existent schedules will also be a way to support healthy sleep cycles.
If possible, getting outside in one’s garden or on your private deck to do exercise or engage in other leisure activities will help with both sleep regularity and mental health. Combining exercise in private outdoor spaces can be ideal. However, indoor exercise is very effective. Many trainers and kinesiologists are offering exercise instruction through platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and
other platforms. There are many videos available on these platforms for seniors looking for video instruction.
Equipment that can be used for a home-based work out:
Stairs or low (sturdy) step stool
- These can be used for cardio. An interval workout might include stair climbing for 1 minute, followed a strength exercise, and then stair climbing exercise for another minute. Alternating between strength and cardio. For joint health and physical safety, it is a good idea to use the first two stairs and move up and down them, rather than climbing and descending the entire staircase. Make sure you have a wall or support nearby for balance.
- Weighted backpack. A heavy-duty backpack can be loaded with soft but heavy kitchen or household objects, such as bags of flour, sugar or other objects. Placing the backpack on your back can make cardiovascular exercises at home, such as stair climbing or marching exercises more challenging. The backpack can also be used to make lunges, squats, and chair stands more challenging.
- Laundry detergent jugs can be used for strength. Milk jugs may have handles that are too narrow, causing discomfort when used as ‘weights’. However, most laundry detergent jugs have a larger handle. The weight can be a bit heavier, so keeping the upper body exercises below shoulder height may be advisable for safety. One arm row with laundry detergent jug: place your knee and hand on a sofa or sturdy chair. The other foot will be on the floor, and the outside hand holding a laundry jug. With your spine straight, first extend your arm and then bend at the elbow, bringing the laundry jug to your side. You should feel your back and shoulders working. Repeat this exercise between 6 and 12 times. Repeat on the other side.
- Wall push up, chair push up. Push ups can be modified to accommodate a variety of strength levels. Wall: start with your hands on a wall, and step away from the wall until your arms are straight. Bend your elbows. Then, lower your chest toward the wall. Keeping your spine straight, push your body away from the wall by straightening your arm, bend them again moving back toward the wall. Repeat 6-12 times. If this exercise is too easy, you can descend to a lower surface, such as a sofa or sturdy chair.
- A sturdy chair that will not tip can be used for lower body strength and for seated exercise. Try the sit to stand (chair stand) exercise: Start by sitting in the chair and then stand up all the way, sitting back down again. Repeat this exercise 8-12 times. If it is too easy, you can hold your laundry jugs or wear your weighted backpack for extra challenge.
Laundry detergent jug shoulder press: Hold on to a wall or chair with one hand so that you can ensure your spine stays straight for this exercise. With feet firmly planted on the floor, hold the laundry jug in one hand, arm straight and by your side. Move the jug from your side by bending the elbow, and then press the jug over head and straighten your arm. You should feel this in your back and shoulders. Return the jug to your side and repeat, 6-12 times. If a laundry jug is too heavy, use a lighter object such as a full water bottle or soup can.
Laundry detergent jug biceps curls: hold your jugs in each hand, beginning with your arms straight by your sides. Bending at the elbows, bring the jugs upward, contracting your biceps muscles. Lower and straighten your arms again, repeating 6-12 times. Again, to make it easier you can use soup cans or water bottles. You can combine the wall sit with laundry jug bicep curls if you need more of a challenge.
Wall sit: Find an empty wall with clear space. Place your back against the wall, and slowly slide down the wall a bit, bending your knees and then walking your feet out away from the wall. Do not go too low or you may have trouble getting back up, and you may also have knee discomfort. Keep your hands on the wall for balance. Hold the lower body contraction for 10-30 seconds, working up to one minute if able. If this is too easy, try holding your laundry detergent jugs by your side, or your weighted backpack in front of your body. Do not perform this exercise if it hurts your knees.
Make sure you have a sturdy chair, sofa or wall for support. Make sure there are no dangerous objects nearby and that you are not at risk of falling.
– Start by balancing on one leg. You can use your fingertips or hand on your furniture or wall for a bit of support, or you can tap your foot on the floor to steady yourself as needed. Try for at least 10 seconds if able, building up to 30 seconds over time. Repeat on each leg. If you’ve had a joint replacement or have a joint condition, you should either avoid this exercise or reduce the amount of time you perform this one, discontinuing if you have pain.
– Heel raise. Stand on your toes by raising your heels off the floor. Try to balance for 10-30 seconds. If this is too easy, try closing your eyes. Make sure you have your fingertips or hand on a sturdy surface for safety.
– heel to toe. Place one foot in front of the other, until you are slightly off balance. Using minimal support, try to balance yourself for up to 30 seconds, and repeat with the feet the other way. If this is too hard, bring your feet further away from each other. If it is too easy, try closing your eyes. Make sure you have your hand on a sturdy support surface for safety.