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Staying Active When You're Told to Stay Home

Written by Mary Martin PT, DPT

Staying active and healthy is on everyone’s minds currently, and especially our COVID-19 “at risk” population of 65 years+. Extensive reviews of physical activity guidelines in 2018 show that physical activity is connected to reducing the risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer's Disease. Processing speed, memory, and executive function (think planning and executing tasks) all improve with exercise! Not only that, regular exercise can reduce pain from common complaints like knee or hip pain. Conservative management of osteoarthritis can be as simple as strengthening the muscles around the joint, like with knee or hip arthritis. When this occurs, researchers noted improved walking distance and speed, as well as improved functional movements and less pain. A minimum of 150 minutes (2 hours, 30 min) a week of activity is recommended for adults per the latest Physical Activity Guidelines published from the US Department of Health Services. They also recommend muscle strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups 2+ days a week. Specifically for older adults, it is also recommended to include balance training to your exercise program. If you cannot perform 150 min/week of activity because of chronic conditions, try to be as physically active as your abilities and conditions will allow you. A good way to know if you’re pushing your abilities safely is to perform the “talk test.” Make sure you are working hard enough that you feel strain but can still talk to a workout buddy throughout the activity. Of course, talk to your doctor to make sure you are cleared to be safe for a workout program prior to starting one.

Suggested aerobic activities: ● Walking or hiking ● Dancing ● Swimming ● Water aerobics ● Bicycle riding ● Yard work ● Tennis Suggested muscle strengthening activities: ● Repetitive lifting with exercise bands, weight machines, or hand held weights ● Body weight exercises (push ups, planks) ● gardening (digging, lifting, carrying) ● Carrying groceries ● Yoga and tai chi

The National Institute of Aging recommends 4 ways to stay motivated to exercise for the older adult.

  1. Find simple ways to make exercise fun and enjoyable

  2. Find ways to fit exercise into your regular daily activities

    1. You can always break up your 30 min a day into three 10 minute periods

    2. Take the stairs, walk down the hallway instead of sending an email, park further away

  3. Make exercise a social activity. It is always more fun to share experiences with people you care about!

  4. Keep track of your exercise progress

    1. You can use a fitness tracker, app, notebook, calendar...anything!

Most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate your success!

Remember, while we are all cooped up or just trying to stay away from crowds, we can still be pretty active at home or in our neighborhoods. If you have more questions, our therapists at Advanced Rehabilitation Services are happy to schedule an in-person or telehealth visit with you!

You can also check out more resources for staying healthy and active during COVID-19 at:

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