“I feel like the walls are closing in!”
The past few weeks have been rough on everyone, especially seniors. Is your new commute all of fifty feet, from the bedroom to the sofa? Join the crowd. We’re all cooped up. They call the weight everyone has been putting on from too much couch-surfing “the COVID 20”.
You’re not a kid anymore, and that’s a good thing.
It’s important to stay in shape when you’re younger. But seniors really need to be proactive about their health and fitness. They have the most to gain (or pounds to lose!) by staying active. And they have the additional challenges of older age—aches and pains, loss of strength, mobility and balance.
But there’s good news. Seniors also usually have an easier time fitting exercise into their daily schedule. They can make meaningful progress with lower effort, and there are lots of people ready to help them out.
Getting fit and staying fit in your senior years has major benefits. Even mild exercise has been shown to strengthen bones, add muscle mass, aid digestion, improve respiratory and kidney function, and keep your blood vessels flexible and your heart healthy and strong.
How lazy are you?
If you don’t have an hour a day, exercise 15 minutes. Still too much of a commitment? Even just 90 seconds of high-effort movement a day can improve your health!
Still too much of a commitment? How about starting at just twenty seconds, and not even moving? Seriously, just set a recurring daily alarm, and get started.
If you don’t like exercise, any kind of regular movement is better than none. Put on a favorite tune and dance like no one’s watching—because these days, nobody is!
Walking is one of the finest exercises there is, and it doesn’t even feel like work. If mobility is a problem, you don’t have to leave the chair. Do some lower leg raises, and lift a couple of water bottles or stretch a scarf or resistance band for a low-effort workout.
Success breeds success
You’ve been around long enough to know that the hardest step is the first one, and that you can change your habits if you want to. Use whatever motivates you—a reminder in your phone, a pact with a family member, your personal care aide, or a friend—and soon you’ll be on your way to better health.
Ready to get started?
No need for fancy, fashionable gym wear—another perk of social distancing. A comfortable shirt, pants that allow a good range of motion, and comfortable, supportive shoes with good traction are all that you need. If you want to boost your motivation with attractive workout gear, go ahead! Whatever gets you in the mood to move.
Outside or inside?
The important thing is to stay safe. If exercising outdoors is permitted in your community and you can diligently maintain social distancing, go for it. You can get your steps in with a nice walk, jog, or bike ride outside. But if there’s a lockdown in effect, if the weather is bad, or if all the trails and walking paths are crowded and social distancing is not possible, then you can get a quality workout in your own home.
Don’t share the air!
Important note: there’s more to avoiding airborne virus particles than just six feet of distance. If everyone is traveling in the same direction, two meters is not protective enough. The latest wind tunnel research (PDF) shows that expelled droplets can be airborne for up to 16 feet/5 meters behind a fast walker, and 33 feet/10 meters behind a runner! Bicycling—there’s really no risk-free follow distance. If there’s no cross breeze, avoid other people’s “slipstream” when walking, running or biking, and avoid popular destinations or routes.
The good news is that with street traffic so light, there are places to get your exercise that would have been off-limits before, like quiet side street sidewalks and empty parking lots. Just get moving!
For more information
There’s tons of exercise routines to try. You can find them online, on TV, or from your healthcare provider. Pick something that you don’t hate doing, and start from there.
Bottom Line: Sitting in a chair is bad for you. Exercise is good for you. We’re here to help!