There is no denying the importance of physical exercise to our overall wellness. Whatever our age, staying active can help us manage our weight, blood pressure, pain, and emotions. That’s why health experts recommend that older adults who are fit enough for physical activity perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.
Regrettably, the coronavirus pandemic, with its current social distancing stay-at-home recommendations, and other safety protocols, keeps many seniors from getting enough exercise. Older adults used to group exercise settings are finding senior centers closed and gyms operating on limited hours. And for those confined to their homes or apartments, it’s easy to become inactive.
At Sunset, we encourage healthy residents to incorporate exercise into their lives whenever possible. With that in mind, here are some practical advice for adding physical activity to your daily routine during the pandemic.
Aim for Moderate-Intensity
Aerobic exercise that increases your heartbeat and breathing rate can help make your cardiorespiratory system healthier over time. So, how much effort should you exert?
Experts recommend that older adults aim to exercise with at least moderate intensity depending on their fitness levels. Exercising at moderate-intensity should noticeably increase your breathing and heart rate. On a scale of 0 to 10, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise requires a medium level of effort (5 or 6).
Put another way, when performing moderate-intensity aerobics, you should feel as if you could talk, but not sing.
Limit Your Sitting
Many ordinary at-home past times—such as reading, watching television, or browsing the internet—involve sitting. Consequently, the more time we spend confined at home, the more time we are likely to spend sitting. Sitting for long periods can drain our energy. Once we get comfortable, it takes a concentrated effort to get moving again.
Try interrupting prolonged periods of sitting with some movement. For example, stand up during television commercials or in between book chapters and walk about the house. Use those opportunities to water the plants or fetch the mail, or even march in place. Another good idea is to avoid sitting while talking on the telephone. Such efforts can increase your heart rate and lessen the effects of sitting too long.
Exercise is always a good excuse to go outside. But it’s an excellent reason during a pandemic. Not only will you enjoy breathing in the fresh air, but you’ll find it easier to adhere to social distancing.
Hiking, jogging, bicycling, and calisthenics are just a few outdoor activities you can do alone at your own pace. And when you participate with friends, open outside space makes it easy to maintain proper distancing.
Exercise Your Mental Health, Too
Events beyond our control, such as global pandemics, can leave us feeling helpless, anxious, and overwhelmed. When that happens, experts suggest turning your focus to things you can control in the short term—for example, setting today’s exercise goal.
If your usual outdoor walk involves two laps around the block, you might try extending it today. Not only will a longer stroll provide added physical benefits, but it will also give you a sense of accomplishment and self-determination.
Have some chores you’ve been putting off doing (i.e., cleaning the garage, raking some leaves), stop considering them work, and treat them as opportunities to get exercise. You’ll feel better, both physically and mentally, for having done them.
NOTE: Be sure to check with a healthcare professional before beginning or expanding any exercise program to make sure you are healthy enough for the added activity.