Sitting is still the new smoking. Sedentary behavior is bad news all around and is linked to poor sleep, depression, and reduced cognitive function in older adults. The longer you sit, the increased your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and a shorter life span.
Even during this current climate, seniors should still get at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and at least 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
We know it’s hard when COVID-related concerns may affect your diet, weight gain, stress, and overall mental well-being. And changes to your daily routine may make it more challenging to find time for exercise. But any form of physical activity is better than none at all.
Try these 10 COVID-19 fitness ideas to stay active and safe while social distancing.
- Take a walk.
According to a National Institutes of Health(NIH) study, walking more is good for older adults. Even low-intensity strolls have the same health benefits as higher-intensity power walks, lowering the overall risk for mortality. Going for a walk is a great way to get active, as long as you can safely maintain distance (6 feet) between yourself and your neighbors.
- Get in the garden.
If you can’t practice safe social distancing outdoors, you can always stay home and get active outside. If you have a yard, gardening and any other kind of yard work, as long as you’re physically able to do so, are great activities that count toward physical activity guidelines. Plus, you can multitask and be creative while you’re at it.
- Try a new art or craft.
Engaging in creative arts is beneficial to your physical health, too. In addition to fighting depression, common for many during self-isolation, studies found that seniors engaged in arts and crafts activities had a higher rate of physical health, fewer accidental falls, and a decrease in doctor visits. Activities like knitting, crocheting, painting, and working with clay are fantastic for the mind and body.
- Take an exercise class online.
During COVID-19, many local gyms and fitness trainers are offering free virtual classes while people shelter in place. Take advantage of instructional videos that can be found online, especially yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and stretching that improve balance, flexibility, core strength, and overall mobility for seniors.
- Dance to your favorite songs.
Dancing isn’t just a great cardiovascular workout—it’s fun, too. This low-impact exercise exercises your mind and body. Take a stroll down memory lane while dancing to your favorite records or playlist in the living room or while cooking dinner.
- Make small changes to sit less and move more.
There are countless ways to move more throughout the day. For example, during TV commercials, do an active chore like vacuuming. For each chapter in a book read, spend 10 minutes outside doing yardwork. Look for unique ways to enjoy the benefits of movement.
- Add some resistance for strength training.
Resistance exercises build strength in both the arms and legs. Think light hand weights or resistance bands. If you’re stuck at home without any equipment, you can even use household objects like perishable food cans, a chair, or scarfs or hand towels. Try this workout to start.
- Grab a friend—for a virtual workout!
We can’t be with the people we love most right now, especially seniors who are most susceptible to severe illness caused by COVID-19. But, we can stay connected in other ways. Find an online workout, video chat or FaceTime a friend or family member, and workout “together” virtually.
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Give meditation a try.
Your mental health matters too, now more than ever. A simple meditation, combined with light movement and stretching, is a great COVID-19 fitness idea. It can be done sitting on the floor, on the couch, or in a chair. It’s what the body needs sometimes to reset itself and calm down. This video offers a gentle practice for seniors during self-isolation.
- If nothing else, devote just 5 minutes a day for yourself.
Exercise is essential to physical health and mental well-being during this pandemic. Even if you can’t do the recommended 150 minutes each week, just five minutes of movement can boost your immune system, help to prevent weight gain, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep.
Here are a few additional COVID-19 fitness safety tips.
- Reduce the risk of falls. Be aware of your environment at all times, and make sure you have a sturdy chair, wall, or sofa nearby in case you lose your balance. Also, be sure to wear appropriate shoes and clothing while exercising.
- Don’t overdo it. Move at your own pace, and take it slow and steady, especially if you’re just starting out any new activity. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new workout.
- Don’t forget to drink water! Staying hydrated is key before, during, and after any exercise.
- Let someone know you’re exercising. In case of an emergency and especially if you live alone, it helps to let a loved one or caregiver know where and what you’re doing.
- Do not exercise with others. While social distancing, stick with members of your household only.
- Wear a mask or face-covering in public. This helps to prevent the spread of germs that can cause infection.
- Avoid congested parks, playgrounds, and other public spaces with lots of people. Remember the golden rule—6 feet apart at all times.
- Wash your hands regularly. Both before and after exercise. Proper hygiene is key to stopping the spread of illness.