by Micky Bates, Healthy Living Coordinator

Although many of us are sheltering in place due to COVID-19, that doesn’t mean we should become less active. We may not be able to go to the gym or attend our favorite exercise class, but there are many exercises we can do at home. Engaging in a moderate exercise program is necessary to improve (or maintain) your physical strength, balance and coordination. Regular physical activity can also help manage and prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis, and improve your energy and self-confidence. Exercise will also improve your mood by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for older adults. That’s just 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. If 30 minutes is too much to start with, you can break up the 30 minutes into 3–10 minute increments and still achieve the same benefit.

There are many ways to be active every day while staying at home. You can march in place and do strength training exercises in your living room, take small walks around your yard or apartment complex, and do yard work or gardening.

There are four categories of exercise: Endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

  • Endurance exercises increase breathing and heart rate and are essential for cardiovascular health. These exercises include brisk walking or jogging, biking, swimming, playing tennis or basketball.
  • Strength exercises use weights to improve muscle strength. Exercises include lifting weights or using a resistance band.
  • Balance exercises improve your balance to prevent falls. Exercises include standing on one foot, heel to toe walking, and Tai Chi.
  • Flexibility exercises help your body to stay flexible and limber to assist with movement and prevent stiffness. To increase your flexibility, perform stretching exercises daily such as overhead arm stretches, back stretches, and calf stretches. Yoga is also a beneficial exercise for flexibility.

Exercising the right way

Start with 5 minutes of warm up activities such as walking, arm circles, and overhead reaches. It’s important to warm up your muscles before performing strength training exercises.

Strength training exercises should be performed 2-3 days per week, but not consecutively. Take a day off between workouts. Start with a lighter weight (or none at all) and gradually add more weight. If you don’t have handheld weights, you can use a can of vegetables or soup from your pantry or a bottle of water.

After strength training, be sure to spend at least 5 minutes performing stretching exercises to avoid soreness.

If you have balance issues or muscle weakness, you can do the strengthening exercises sitting in a chair. To perform balance exercises, such as standing on one foot or walking heel to toe, be sure to stand next to the counter or have a chair close by in case you lose your balance.

There are many ways to be active every day. Find something you enjoy doing, include it in your regular routine, and strive to increase your level of activity over time.

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