Seniors: How to keep your body and mind active during COVID-19.

by Dr. Dionne Hawkins, MPT, Clinic Director at MedStar Health Physical Therapy at Leisure World
July 15, 2020

Social restrictions caused by COVID-19 continue to affect us all, and the senior community is no exception. With a higher risk for infection, our senior population is taking extra precautions to stay home, self isolate, and avoid exposure to the virus.

Keeping your mind and body active is so important while you’re staying home, and we’re here to help with these simple tips and exercises.

With a higher risk for infection, our senior population is taking extra precautions to stay home and avoid exposure to #COVID19. Read the #LiveWellHealthy blog for tips on how seniors can keep their mind and body active while at home: https://bit.ly/38YYvew

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General tips for staying active.

  • Get up and move at least once every 30 to 60 minutes. Set a timer if you need to!
  • Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
  • Try to do a little exercise every day. A total of at least 30 minutes a day is a good goal.
  • Stretching is just as important as strengthening. Do both!

6 strengthening exercises you can do at home.

Keeping your body active is not only beneficial for your physical and overall health, but it is also a great way to occupy your time if you’re feeling bored or restless in the house. These exercises are simple, and only require three things so they can easily be done at home.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sturdy chair
  • Clear kitchen counter space
  • Clear wall space

Each exercise should be done at least 10 times.

1. Chair sit-stand.

Purpose: strengthens hip and thigh muscles.

  • Scoot to the edge of a sturdy chair (kitchen or dining room chair).
  • Make sure feet are flat on the floor and spread hip-width apart.
  • Lean forward (“get your nose over your toes”).
  • Squeeze buttocks to help you stand.

2. Wall push-ups.

Purpose: strengthens chest and arms.

  • Stand facing a clear wall space.
  • Place your palms flat against the wall.
  • Bend your elbows to bring your face as close to the wall as you can without losing your balance.
  • Straighten your elbows to return to standing position.

3. Standing marches.

Purpose: strengthens hips and is good for general hip mobility.

  • Hold on to a sturdy chair or the kitchen counter.
  • Raise your knee up towards your chest, then put your foot back down.
  • Repeat, raising the opposite knee.
  • Continue to march in place, lifting the knee as high as you can.

4. Standing heel-toe raises.

Purpose: strengthens the calf muscles and helps reduce leg swelling.

  • Hold on to a sturdy chair or the kitchen counter.
  • Raise your heels off the floor as high as you can, standing on tiptoes and then return to starting position.
  • Now lift your toes off the floor and then return to starting position.

5. Standing hamstring curls.

Purpose: strengthens thigh muscles and is good for general knee mobility.

  • Hold on to a sturdy chair or the kitchen counter.
  • Lift your foot off the ground backwards, towards your buttocks.
  • Alternate and lift the other foot off the ground towards your buttocks.

6. Bicep curls.

Purpose: strengthens arms.

  • Sit in sturdy chair.
  • With a small weight in the hand, bend your elbow
    to raise your hand towards your face.
  • Relax and straighten your elbow to bring the weight back down.

Tip: If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use a bag of rice or a small can of soup for a weight.

5 stretching exercises.

Stretching your muscles is also key when it comes to your physical health. If you are doing strengthening exercises, you should be making sure to stretch as well. And even if you aren’t, stretching is still beneficial to your health, and can be a great way to start your morning. Here are a few you can start out with.

All stretches should be held for no less than 30 seconds and done twice. Remember, you should only feel a stretch in the muscle, not pain. Ease up if you feel any pain.

1. Calf stretch.

  • Stand against a clear wall space.
  • Place your palms flat against the wall.
  • Place one foot in front of the other.
  • Lean against the wall, bending the front knee, but keeping the back knee straight.
  • Keep heels on the ground.
  • Stretch should be felt in the back of your leg.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

2. Hamstring stretch.

  • Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair.
  • Straighten one leg out in front of you, keep the other knee bent.
  • Lean forward from your hips; keep your chest up tall.
  • Stretch should be felt in the back of your thigh.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

3. Low back stretch #1.

  • Sit in a sturdy chair.
  • Slowly bend forward, reaching to the floor between your knees.
  • Slowly return from bent position to sitting upright.
  • Stretch should be felt across both sides of the low back.

4. Low back stretch #2.

  • Sit in a sturdy chair.
  • Raise one arm over your head.
  • Bend to the opposite side of the arm that’s raised.
  • Stretch should be felt on one side of your low back.
  • Switch arms and repeat.

5. Neck stretch.

  • Sit in a sturdy chair.
  • Tip your head to the side, leaning your ear over your shoulder.
  • Stretch should be felt along the side of your neck.

Exercises for your mind.

Keeping up with your mental health is just as important as keeping up with your physical health. Being stuck at home with social restrictions due to COVID-19 can be tough on your mental health, but there are plenty of ways to help it. Here are a few activities that can help occupy your time and keep your mind active.

Go for a walk.

It’s ok to leave the house and walk outside. Sunshine and fresh air are necessary for general health, boosting your mood, and overall well-being. Be sure to maintain proper physical distancing (six feet) and wear a mask. Make a date to meet your friend or neighbor and take a walk at the same time from opposite sides of the street.

Stay connected with family and friends.

Schedule a regular weekly or daily call. This will give you something positive to look forward to and stay connected. If you live nearby, invite them for a visit. Sit on the porch or in front of your house, while they visit from the driveway or sidewalk. If you live further away and everyone has access to a computer or smartphone, schedule virtual meetups using platforms like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom.

Keep your mind sharp.

Puzzles are a great way to keep your mind active and keep you occupied during the day. If you want to include your family and friends in on the fun, you can even do a puzzle exchange with them. Crossword puzzles and word searches are also great for your mind. There are plenty of word and number puzzles available on your smartphone or computer, as well as in magazines and newspapers. You can also try reading a new book or listening to an audio book instead of watching television.

Listen to your body.

Always pay attention to how your body is feeling when doing any sort of physical activity. Be mindful of any aches and pains you may feel, and remember to ease up or stop if you feel any pain. If you experience soreness or pain lasting longer than a few days after activity, you may benefit from physical therapy. Ask your physician if physical therapy is right for you.

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Category: Staying Active     Tags: ExerciseMedStar Healthmental healthphysical healthPhysical TherapyStaying active