For many older people, the coronavirus means living far more sedentary lifestyles than before the pandemic as they follow stay-at-home guidelines. But Lisa Stuebing, a personal trainer at Seattle’s Mud Puddle Fitness who specializes in working with senior clients, said this lack of activity can be dangerous.
Stuebing said not getting enough exercise can lead to higher risks for stroke or heart attack, and fitness can help with cognition issues and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Movement is also essential for arthritis patients to retain the range of motion of joints and limit pain, she said.
She recommends at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity, either in one chunk or split into smaller pieces. Smaller activities can be incorporated into everyday ones, like getting some movement in during a commercial break on television.
“There is no perfect,” she said. “You don’t have to beat yourself up if you’re not doing it every day. You start where you are.”
Since her older clients are at higher risk for serious coronavirus complications, Stuebing can’t work with them for fear of transmitting the virus and must now advise them remotely. Here are her tips for seniors to maintain fitness while following stay-at-home recommendations:
Stuebing emphasized functional fitness, exercise that trains the body for everyday activities important to maintain for quality of life. This includes walking, standing up from a seated position and getting up off the floor on your own — with and without using your hands.
“You have to maintain all the functional abilities you have,” she said. “You’d be surprised how much work that is.
If seniors feel that going outside for a walk while wearing a mask and gloves is too unsafe, Stuebing recommends doing laps around the house or even concocting a home obstacle course with dining-room chairs, anything to set the pace higher than typical ambling around rooms.
Moving to music
Stuebing recommends seniors simply move to music occasionally to practice getting a full range of motion, be it through dancing or light activity. Though she said it’s not a full workout, it’s a good low-impact option to keep older people active.
“You’re going to naturally get into a flow all on your own,” she said. “That’s not going to cause you pain. There’s no downside.”
She said the music itself is another benefit, especially for those with cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford of the Mayo Clinic writes that research suggests music can be emotionally or behaviorally beneficial for these patients, relieving anxiety and depression while giving them a way to connect with loved ones.
Many have turned to online workout routines, prerecorded videos or livestreams replicating the experience of being in a fitness class with a trainer. Stuebing said given the wide range of online options, these can be good resources for seniors if they know what to look for. She said a good workout routine on YouTube or Instagram should be pain-free, engaging and age-appropriate.
Here are some online workouts seniors can turn to:
Lifelong Recreation Program
Seattle Channel (Youtube). Seattle’s Parks & Recreation department has created a playlist of workout videos for seniors that range from tai chi to line dancing.
Wallingford Community Senior Center Zoom yoga classes
Scheduled twice a week for Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays at noon. The classes are free, but donations to the center are welcome. Those interested in joining the class can email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Yoga registration information.”
@chairworkouts (Instagram) and chairworkouts.com. Sections of sessions are available on Instagram, and the full videos can be viewed on the website with a $14.99/month subscription.
Tools.silversneakers.com and facebook.com/silversneakers. Free for those with participating Medicare plans, Silver Sneakers provides workouts through its app, website and Facebook videos and livestreams.