6 Ways to Stay Physically Active While Sheltering at Home
Our current times are uncertain and causing most of us to take an intense look at our lives. We are choosing our outings wisely, socially distancing ourselves, and some of us are under shelter-at-home orders.
While searching to make sense of COVID-19, or coronavirus, we are deciding what is important and trying to find a new normal amidst these changing times.
Physical activity should remain important. The fact that our bodies need to stay physically active is one thing that doesn’t change with the times – we need physical activity to be healthy. Science Daily tells us that physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death.
We contacted David Winholtz, a fitness trainer in Decatur, for some expert advice in this area. With his help and some exciting research, we have some helpful suggestions to keep you active.
David Winholtz has been working in the fitness industry for 12 years. He specializes in functional training and nutritional coaching and currently helps run multiple gyms and fitness centers in the Decatur area.
Need Medicare or retirement planning help? The Sams/Hockaday team specializes in Medicare health insurance as well as retirement planning. Read more about what we do and schedule an appointment with the agent of your choice today!
Beware! Important Disclaimer
When it comes to exercising, it’s important to remember that safety is your priority. Simple is best.
David, our expert trainer, says, “Definitely maintain the things you already know, but don’t try to do an exercise you’re unfamiliar with, because an at-home injury can set you back a long way.”
By keeping things simple, you reduce the risk of an injury or fall. You don’t want to end up in the hospital and risk becoming exposed to the coronavirus, let alone take hospital beds away from those who have contracted the virus.
The following activities should all be safe, but if at any time you feel uncomfortable or feel any pain, stop what you are doing immediately.
Activity #1: Housework
Yes, you read that right. Housework is a beneficial exercise.
The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study found that any activity – even housework – is suitable for people to meet the current guideline of 30 minutes of activity a day, or 150 minutes a week to raise the heart rate.
Shape states that “your core muscles are the base of support for your entire body,” and they’re used in almost everything you do every day.
Your core muscles consist of:
- Transverse abdominis, which stabilizes your spine and pelvis
- Oblique muscles that control lateral movements, rotation, and other spinal movements
- Rectus abdominis, (the muscle that is known as the six-pack), allows a forward bending motion
- Pelvic floor muscles, which are the back muscles that stabilize your spine and your diaphragm
As you can see, a strong core is paramount to almost every movement of your body.
David says one of the best ways for seniors to stay active is to clean the house. On top of everyday cleaning, he suggests a deep clean, especially with so many of us being home-bound right now.
“A daily planner,” David suggests, “is a great way to focus on the things around the house.”
If you’re a morning person, use the early morning time to plan your day. If you prefer evenings, use that time to make your plans. Make sure as you start your day’s activities, you know what you want to accomplish.
Concentrate on one major activity per day. Write it down and hold yourself accountable. Use this time to clean out and declutter areas such as:
- Kitchen drawers
- Pantry areas
- Laundry room
- Office area
- Garage or carport
- Patio areas
These are just ideas; make a list that fits your house and your needs. When using your daily planner, be sure to mark off the activities as you complete them, which gives you a great deal of satisfaction, and it’s a visual reminder of how much you’re accomplishing.
Vacuuming, Mopping, and Sweeping
When you clean your floors, you are exerting a lot of energy. Not only are you using your arm and leg muscles, but you contract your core muscles to move the vacuum and broom back and forth.
Whether you hand wash the dishes or use a dishwasher, you are moving. From moving your arms when washing, to bending over and stretching, to loading and unloading the dishwasher and putting the dishes away, you are engaging in a wide range of motions.
Raising and lowering your arms, stretching (maybe even to your tip-toes), looking up and down, bending and stooping, and possibly even squatting – all of this exercise goes into getting your dishes clean and put away!
Making the Bed
Making your bed also takes a lot of muscle movement. It doesn’t matter if you’re putting on clean sheets or if you are adjusting the covers from last night’s sleep, you are using your whole body. Again, you are bending, stretching, twisting, and pulling to get that bed made.
When you break down the whole process of doing laundry, it’s impressive to see just how much energy you put into that one task:
- Gathering dirty clothes from the floor or a laundry basket involves bending and lifting motions as well as muscles to carry the dirty clothes to the washing machine.
- Loading the washer, transferring wet clothes to the dryer, and unloading the dryer uses arm, leg, and core muscles.
- Folding, hanging, and putting away clean laundry uses your arms, legs, and core muscles with walking, bending, and stretching.
Dusting and Cleaning Surfaces
As you move around your house to clean the surfaces, you again are engaging most of your body, including your arms, legs, and core muscles. You will bend, stoop, and stretch to reach the entire surface you are cleaning.
As you use a circular or a back and forth motion to get the whole area clean, be conscious and change hands, so both sides of your body get a workout. For example, clean the living room with your right hand and the bedrooms with your left hand.
Cleaning Tubs, Showers, Toilets, and Sinks
Tubs, showers, toilets, and sinks fall into the same category because of their design. To clean any of them, you have to reach, bend, squat, stoop, scrub, twist, and look up and down to reach all the areas that need cleaning.
In performing all of these cleaning chores, you enlist your core, arms, legs, neck, and shoulder muscles.
Whether you’re doing daily chores or you're working on a deep cleaning project, concentrate on the task at hand, and think about which muscles you’re using. Put extra effort into that body part by tightening the muscles and keeping them as taught as possible while performing the job, thus building muscle while you work.
Activity #2: Yard Work
Another great way to be active is to work in your yard. This time of year, the flowerbeds are begging for attention. While you may not be able to get to the store to buy new plants or mulch, you can still work in your yard.
Further Reading: Top 5 Tips for Beginner Gardeners in Illinois
Cleaning out the flowerbeds by raking the winter debris that has gathered, weeding the spring growth, and even hand tilling areas that are soft enough to work are all great ways to get those muscles moving.
Raking your yard, even if it’s just a small area at a time, is an excellent exercise for the whole body. You will utilize your core muscles, arms, legs, shoulders, and neck muscles, giving you a nice overall workout.
Other areas of yard work we don’t often think about are things such as:
- Sweeping your porches and walkways
- Cleaning your patio furniture
- Picking up trash or unwanted items that have landed at your residence over the winter months
Activity #3: Simple Exercises
David cautions against just throwing any exercise out there. “Working out at home is remarkably dangerous for people, especially when trying things for the first time,” he says.
He did, however, refer us to an article by Philips Lifeline, which gives several simple exercises that are safe and will help keep your limbs limber and improve your strength and balance.
Single Limb Stance (Balance)
Start this exercise by holding on to the back of a stationary, solid chair. Bend your knee lifting your left foot behind you and hold that position for a specific time, such as a minute, then switch feet.
The goal is to be able to stand on one leg and balance yourself without having to use a chair as support.
Heel to Toe Walking (Strength and Balance)
This exercise will improve the strength in your legs, which in turn improves your balance – a two-for-one activity.
In a standing position, put your left foot in front of your right foot, touching your left heel to your right toes. Raise on your toes and then lower back down to your heels.
Move your right foot in front of your left foot with your right heel touching your left toes. Raise on your toes and then lower back down to your heels.
Repeat this series of exercises for the length of your room or about 20 steps.
If you are unsteady on your feet, hold on to the wall or a piece of furniture as you perform the exercise so you don’t risk falling.
Rock the Boat (Balance)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Staying straight with your head level and looking straight ahead, rock slowly to your left, transferring your weight to your left foot, lifting your right foot off the ground. Hold that position for a few seconds and then slowly lower your right foot back to the ground. You can use your arms for balance as you need.
Transfer your weight to your right foot and rock slowly to your right, lifting your left foot off the ground. Hold that position for a few seconds and then slowly lower your left foot back to the ground.
Repeat the process, performing the exercise five times on each side. Increase the holding time until you can stand on each side for 30 seconds, then increase the number of times you perform the exercise.
Single Limb Stance with Arm (Balance)
Stand with your feet together and arms by your side. Use a chair for balance if needed to prevent a fall. Lift your left arm and hand above your head, then slowly raise your left foot off the floor by bending your knee. Hold that position for 10 seconds (or as long as you can up to 10 seconds), then slowly lower your arm and foot.
Repeat the same exercise with your right arm and leg. Do this 10 times on each side.
Side Leg Raises (Balance and Strength)
Stand behind a chair with your feet slightly apart. Slowly lift your right leg to the side, keeping your back straight and your toe facing forward, and stare straight ahead. Then slowly lower your right leg.
Repeat the process with your left leg. Do this 10 times on each side.
Back Leg Raises (Strength)
Holding on to the back of a chair, slowly lift your right leg straight back without bending your knees or pointing your toes. Hold that position for a few seconds, then gently bring your leg back down.
Do the same exercise with your left leg, repeating 10 times per leg.
This exercise strengthens your bottom and lower back muscles.
Toe Lifts (Balance and Strength)
Using a chair or counter to prevent falls, stand with your back straight and your arms extended out in front of you. Slowly raise yourself as high as you can by rolling onto your toes, then gently lower yourself back down.
Repeat this exercise 20 times.
Shoulder Rolls (Flexibility)
Sitting or standing, lift both shoulders toward the ceiling and gently roll them backward, stopping at the bottom of the roll.
Reverse the roll by lifting both shoulders toward the ceiling and gently rolling them forwards, stopping at the bottom of the roll. Make these rolls slow and intentional, concentrating on getting as much range of motion as possible.
Repeat the exercise 10 times in each direction.
Hand and Finger Exercises (Flexibility)
In the first exercise, use your fingers to climb an invisible wall in front of you until they’re above your head. Keep your arms above your head and wiggle your fingers for 10 seconds, then walk them back down.
For the second exercise, using straight arms, try to touch your hands behind your back. Slowly reach for your left hand while your right hand is behind your back. Hold that position for 10 seconds, then try with your other arm.
Perform each of these exercises 10 times.
These exercises will improve your balance, strength, and flexibility, or a combination of these areas. Slow, steady, and intentional is the best way to approach these exercises.
Two additional exercise sources you might be interested in are these YouTube videos by the National Institution On Aging:
- 7 Strength, Balance, and Flexibility Exercises for Older Adults
- 10-Minute Sample Workout for Older Adults
Activity #4: Walking
Even with social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, it’s possible to get outside and enjoy a walk.
“Walking may be the best form of physical exercise for seniors” because it’s a senior-friendly exercise (The Caregiver Space). It hosts a low, moderate, or high-intensity level, it’s easy on your joints, and the risk of suffering an injury is low.
Set your own pace when you walk. Do what feels right for you, and rest assured whether you are strolling or speed-walking, you will reap health benefits.
A regular walking regimen can help improve your cardiovascular health, boost your immune system, reduce or even prevent arthritis pain, and in turn, can potentially add years to your life.
Making wise choices before you begin walking will ensure the best possible outcome for your effort.
- Be sure you choose a time when there aren’t a lot of others out and about. You want to practice healthy distancing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dress appropriately by wearing comfortable, breathable clothing, and appropriate walking shoes – ones that have adequate support and cushion.
- Make sure the area you are walking in is relatively flat, without loose gravel or other obstructions. You don’t want to risk a fall while getting your exercise.
Walking is a great activity to share with a loved one or caregiver, or even with a group of friends when our world isn’t battling a contagious virus. But, by starting now, you can be in shape and ready to invite others when things get back to normal.
Activity #5: Dancing
Yep, dancing! Surely you can remember dancing the night away in your youth. Chances are you smiled, laughed, and even sweated as you danced with your friends or maybe only with that special someone.
Whatever the case may be, you had a great time, and you didn’t even realize you were getting in tons of exercise.
A study done by the National Institutes of Health explored how dance benefits the health of older adults. What they discovered was intriguing. They found that “dance, regardless of its style, can significantly improve muscular strength and endurance, balance, and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults.”
Well, that’s the idea here. It doesn’t matter where you dance, how you dance, or even if you dance alone. Just feel the beat of the music and get moving!
The best part here is that you don’t have to get dressed up or go anywhere. Your kitchen is a perfect place to get your groove on and get healthy.
Activity #6: Walking and Playing with Your Pet
Numerous studies show how a human-pet bond can improve your health. If you own a pet, this is good news, and if you don’t own a pet, it might convince you that you should.
Pets for the Elderly has a section titled Guided By Love, where they showcase research, studies, and published articles which demonstrate over and over again that “...the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners.”
Some of the health benefits of having a pet include:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for socialization
If you have a dog, instead of letting them out to go potty, take them on a walk, even if it’s just around your yard a few times. Remember: exercise is our goal here, and it will strengthen the bond you have with your dog.
Grab a stick or your dog’s favorite toy and throw away. Playing fetch is great exercise for both of you. What?! Fido doesn’t know how to fetch? This is a great time to teach him, and don’t be fooled; even old dogs can learn new tricks.
While this dog talk sounds good and all, you might be thinking, I am a cat person, and they don’t fetch. You’re in luck. Grab an old scarf, a shoelace, or tear long pieces off an old sheet and start playing. Your cat will be amused as they watch you throw that about, and they will revel in the fun of chasing the other end.
Designate a time each week to groom your pet. Dogs and cats both love the feel of brushing, and it’s healthy for them. While this isn’t tons of activity for you, it will help build a bond making your pet more likely to play with you when it comes time, which is exercise for you.
Staying Active in Uncertain Times
Yes, our current situation is uncertain, and everyone is wondering what will happen next. Trying to keep things as normal as possible is an excellent way to approach this uncertainty. Staying physically active is paramount. The healthier you are, the more power you have over diseases and viruses, including COVID-19.
Choose activities you enjoy, and be smart when executing them. Use your planner to get your house clean. Embrace this time. It is different, and it may be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be bad.
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