senior woman is hugged by her smiling daughter

How Seniors Can Stay Physically Active During Social Distancing

For many Washingtonians, going to the gym or health club is not an option for the foreseeable future. No swimming, no yoga classes, no strength training with your buddies.

But just because you can’t go to the gym doesn’t mean you should take a break from exercising. If anything, you should be making an effort to do more. Daily physical activity for older adults helps maintain a healthy immune system. Plus, it reduces your stress level, boosts your mood and improves your sleep. With everyone’s stress levels up at least a notch or two, exercise seems like a no-brainer.

Don’t turn into a couch potato.

Physical activity for older adults is especially important now. Even a little bit helps. So next time you watch TV, get up and do some squats during the commercials. Do heel raises when you’re doing the dishes. If you’re carrying laundry upstairs, do an extra lap up and down the stairs for a quick cardio workout.

Making exercise a part of your daily routine will lower your risk of falling, improve cognitive function and reduce your risk of dementia. It will also dramatically cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

How much exercise do you need?

The American Heart Association recommends older adults get 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. But if that’s too much, do what you can and follow your doctor’s advice.

You should also do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. Start low and go slow. Start with lower intensity activities and gradually increase how often and how long activities are done.

Aerobic exercise while staying at home.

  • Simple exercises like marching in place or jumping jacks are easy ways to get your heart pumping.
  • You can also walk around the house or go up and down the stairs. Even vacuuming counts as aerobic activity.
  • Get some fresh air and go for a walk. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, it’s good to stretch your legs and clear your mind. Just be sure to follow social distancing guidelines: Stay at least 6 feet from other people.
  • Got a tennis racquet? Find a wall to hit against. It’s great for coordination and conditioning. You could also throw a tennis ball against a wall and play catch with yourself. Or kick a ball and pretend you’re Pelé.
  • Hit the road. With less traffic on the streets, now is a great time to hop on your bike. Just remember to give others a wide berth.

Strength training when the gym is closed.

  • Those fancy weight machines aren’t the only way to build muscle. Dumbbells and resistance bands are great for strength training. If you don’t have either at home, try using cans of food or water jugs. Handles on water jugs may be easier to grip, and you can fill them to a weight that’s comfortable. You can also order resistance bands online.
  • Use your body weight to get stronger. Pushups against a countertop, chair squats (squat until you touch the seat then pop back up), lunges, planks and side bridges are good low-impact exercises for seniors for strengthening shoulders, core and lower body.
  • Gardening is another way to stay limber and strong. A study conducted by the American Society for Horticultural Science found that 30 minutes of gardening fulfills all physical activity recommendations for older adults.

Reduce your risk of falling with balance exercises.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 adults over age 65 fall each year. It’s the No. 1 cause of injury among seniors. Many lower body strength exercises will improve your balance.
  • Simple low-impact exercises for seniors like heel raises and standing on one foot can make you steadier on your feet. Hold on to something sturdy if you need support.
  • If you’re unsteady on your feet, try seated balance exercises like seated marches, leg reaches and trunk rotations.
  • Tai chi, yoga, Pilates and dancing are all good balance activities for seniors because they improve leg strength, flexibility, range of motion and reflexes.
  • An analysis published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older adults who practice tai chi may reduce their risk of falling by up to 50%.
  • Try these six balance exercises for better stability.

Stay safe exercising at home or outdoors.

  • Indoors, have something sturdy to hold on to if you lose your balance. Exercise within reach of a counter, back of a couch, or sturdy chair pushed up against a wall.
  • Don’t overdo it. Gauge your level of effort with the “talk test.” You should be exercising at a level that allows you to talk, but not sing.
  • Hydrate. Drink water before, during and after exercising, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Wear shoes that give you the proper footing for the type of activity you want to do.
  • If you’re leaving the house, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Carry your ID and cell phone with you, especially if walking alone.
  • Maintain social distancing. Whether you’re out for some fresh air, walking the dog or riding your bike, avoid being in close contact with people. Stay at least 6 feet apart.

Home workouts to get you started.

Learn more about our holistic approach to health and wellness.

At Timber Ridge, the health of residents, staff and family members is always top of mind. While we maintain social distancing measures for the foreseeable future, our fitness instructors are leading virtual classes online. In fact, residents have access to a variety of wellness classes online. It helps us stay active and upbeat, while we look forward to being together again, holding group fitness classes and enjoying a full and fulfilling lifestyle. To learn more about our exercise classes, visit our Fitness and Wellness page