While practicing social distancing remains a priority for everyone, finding ways to stay physically active should also remain a priority. This is particularly true for older adults who may find themselves feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable to remain safe. Exercise has long proven to provide numerous health benefits both for your physical well-being as well as your emotional well-being including:
- Improved blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Improved immune system response
- Improved blood circulation and joint comfort
- Improved mood, sleep, and happiness levels
- Decreased feelings of depression, anxiety and stress
The National Institute on Aging has an even lengthier list of benefits if you need more convincing. Truly there is no magic pill or treatment that can provide the combined physical and emotional benefits as exercise. Yet in these uncertain times, it may feel difficult to come by safe and effective exercise options while access to fitness centers, pools and recreation outlets are restricted. Lucky for all of us, that’s the other great thing about exercise in how adaptable it can be. If you feel like throwing in the towel until you can get back to your favorite class or routine, give this some thought:
- Shorter bouts of activity are just as beneficial! You gain the same health benefits exercising at a moderate intensity for three, 10 minute bouts as you do exercising for 30 minutes straight. If you are stuck at home, consider adding in these shorter bouts of activity throughout the day to decrease boredom and maintain conditioning.
- It doesn’t require expensive equipment to get in a good workout. By adjusting your number of sets and repetitions and performing a variety of body weight movements, you can still challenge your muscles and overall endurance very effectively.
- If you’ve been doing the same routine or class for quite some time changing things up with a new at-home workout might be just the thing your body needs for a new challenge. Over time our bodies adapt to the demands we place on it so if you aren’t trying new exercises, increasing the resistance you are working against, etc., your body isn’t getting the same benefits. Utilize this time to experiment with new exercise options to challenge your body and your mind as you learn a new routine.
Now you might be asking, how do I get started? Where do I find exercise resources? How do I know if I’m doing them safely and effectively?
- Contact your gym or fitness center and see if they have trainers providing virtual fitness coaching. NIFS is proud to continue supporting the residents in the senior living communities we serve with a variety of home-based exercise options to keep our participants moving and your gym might have resources to share as well.
- Get resourceful with items you already have at home to replace the small equipment you use in your normal routine. Canned goods or water bottles can replace hand weights, a bath towel over carpet can replace a floor mat, a chair back can replace a handrail for balance work, etc.
- Explore online resources for “senior fitness” or “senior exercise” on Google, YouTube and Amazon. There may be videos for purchase and free trials you can experiment with in your endeavors at home.
Most importantly, focus on your mindset while you are exercising. Recognize that some movement is better than none each day and always listen to your body. Exercise should never be painful so if you try something new and it doesn’t feel quite right, try something else. Consider this chapter in our lives as an opportunity to try new things, keep your body moving, and play it safe. It isn’t a time to push yourself well beyond your comfort zone and limits. Also consider nourishing your body with proper nutrition. It too has a strong impact on mood, energy, and sleep quality.