How to succeed with your senior fitness goals in a pandemic

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An active lifestyle is important for our physical and mental well-being as we age. It can be difficult to be active with the balance of life, especially during a pandemic. Even under the current situation, there are ways to succeed with your fitness goals.

First, be sure to consult with your physician before starting a physical fitness routine. This open communication will allow for a successful fitness goal within your comfort zone. When it comes to exercise it’s important to avoid anything that feels painful or uncomfortable. Try your best to stay within a pain-free range of motion. This will help you to maintain mobility and prevent injury.

Start with walking

One of the easiest and most beneficial forms of exercise is walking. “Walking is the best way to keep legs strong and increase stamina,” said Elderwood Wellness Coordinator Steven Johnson. 

According to Better Health, there are benefits to choosing to walk at a steady pace for a longer period of time, or shorter bursts of more strenuous walking, either quickly or up hills or stairs. For seniors over the age of 65, walking for 30 minutes can help lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes. Plus, it strengthens your muscles and bones, which helps to reduce your chances of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Walking has many mental health benefits as well. Walking on a treadmill or outside where you’re getting fresh air can help increase endorphins which improve your mood. “There are the many health benefits that can be gained from getting Vitamin D, such as bone strengthening and combating depression,” said Johnson. “Breathing fresh air and getting sunlight is the best!”

Practice safe social distancing

Since gyms and other physical fitness centers are closed in most areas, it’s important to find spaces where you can remain active. That can be within your home or outside.

It is recommended to walk with someone in case of falling. But, practicing safe social distancing is important during a global pandemic. Bring a mask in case you encounter other people, and aim to stay at least 6 feet apart from others while walking.

Try other low impact workouts

Tai Chi is a popular activity for seniors who are looking for an enjoyable activity that provides both mental and physical health benefits. Tai Chi is a low impact form of exercise for the health of the mind and body. Minimal stress is put on the muscles and joints, which helps make it a perfect exercise activity for aging seniors.

Tai Chi can be practiced for the comfort of your own home. You can look up videos on YouTube or a variety of streaming services offer programs that you can do at your own pace. 

Gentle yoga and stretching also provide low impact ways to release tension in the body and stay strong.

Incorporate body strength exercises

In addition to cardio, it’s important to practice strength exercises if you’re physically able. As we age, we gradually lose muscle and full body strength helps to maintain stability and flexibility. You’ll want to focus on 3 key areas:

  • Lower body strength is the foundation for your movement. Having a strong foundation decreases your risk for falling.
  • Upper body strength can help seniors do everyday activities like lifting, reaching, pulling, and pushing. Having good upper body strength can preserve, or in some cases, reverse muscle loss associated with aging. 
  • Flexibility is important to help reduce the risk of injury when exercising. Flexibility helps to reduce muscle soreness and allows the body greater amounts of freedom in movement.

Find strength and flexibility workouts here.

With consistent exercise and physical activity, seniors will notice an improvement in their health and overall quality of life. While the impacts of COVID-19 have made it more difficult to get to gyms, fitness classes and public places, it’s important to maintain a regular workout routine, while taking extra precautions.