Improving Day-to-Day Function Through Simple Exercises
Depending on your location, getting in basic physical activity regularly can be difficult. This is true even more so for seniors. There can be several obstacles for older adults to get the exercise they need to maintain strength – from changes in weather to lack of accessible fitness spaces, and beyond.
The Science of Movement
According to Ann Phelps, D.P.T., a physical therapist at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago, “while some movement is always better than none, there are certain foundational exercises that need to be performed on more than designated workout days.” (Silver Sneakers, 2017) Phelps explains that consistent and focused movements can improve strength and mobility, help build better balance, and help people stay independent longer. (Silver Sneakers, 2017) By strengthening the muscles responsible for basic daily tasks like getting up, carrying objects, and taking the stairs, we can ensure safe living at home.
Three of the Best Exercises to Do at Home
1 – the Sit-to-Stand
The ability to sit down or stand up safely from furniture or the toilet is a key determining factor in whether or not a person can continue to live independently. Practicing a sit-to-stand motion can help strengthen your core and leg muscles and improve balance. Phelps explains “Standing up from a chair or other surface without using your hands is a good exercise for older adults to perform to maintain good health, fitness, and mobility.” (Silver Sneakers, 2017)
We recommend standing directly in front of a sturdy chair with your knees just in front of the seat. Start by leaning forward and bending your knees to lower yourself toward the chair like you are going to sit down. Before you touch the chair, pause briefly and then stand back up to a full upright position. Try to do this 10 times while inhaling on your way up and exhaling on your way down. (Elder Gym)
2 – the Single Limb Stance
Balance is an important factor to consider when evaluating whether a person needs additional assistance for daily routines. Going up and down stairs, carrying dishes, and even getting in and out of the tub or shower all require balance. Phelps explains that balance-based exercises help to “improve balance and stability to increase function and decrease the risk of falls.” (Silver Sneakers, 2017)
We recommend standing with your feet together and arms at your side next to a chair. Begin by slowly raising your left foot off the floor by a few inches. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then switch to the other side. To help improve coordination, you can also raise your arm at the same time. Begin by raising your left hand over your head and then gently lift your left foot and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your right arm and leg. (LifeLine by Philips)
3 – Marching in Place
Walking, in all its forms, is a must-do daily activity according to Phelps. (Silver Sneakers, 2017) Walking in general can help to strengthen muscles, prevent weight gain, lower risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis, improve balance, and lower your likelihood of falling. (HealthInAging.org)
On those days you can’t get out and walk for a total of 30 minutes we recommend marching in place. Marching is a great balance exercise for seniors and can be done while holding on to a counter or the back of a chair for stability. Start by standing straight, lifting your right knee as high as you can. Lower it, then lift your left leg. Lift and lower your legs a total of 20 times. (LifeLine by Philips)
Many times, seniors feel they are too old to get started with a new exercise routine, but the experts at Harvard Health say it’s never too late! Taking up exercise at any age offers benefits down the road. And while starting an exercise program may feel too challenging, there are many ways to get started. We recommend trying these three basic exercises for just 10 minutes a day to begin with and work your way up. The team at Harvard Health recommends aiming for 150 minutes a week of walking or other moderate intensity movements like the ones we’ve reviewed today.
If you’d like help building an exercise routine so you can stay happier at home longer, reach out to your local ameriCARE! Our dedicated, trained, and compassionate caregivers can help you find the right routine and make sure you’re safe while doing it.