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At-Home Activities & Exercises for Older Adults

Physical distancing can reduce the chance of a person getting the coronavirus, but staying home can flatten the curve and slow the spread of the infection even more. Fortunately, being at-home does not mean you have to give up your fitness routine -- and it may actually be the perfect time to start one! Whether you are an older adult and you feel yourself beginning to resemble a couch-potato or you have aging parents or grandparents at home and you’re worried they aren’t getting the activities or exercises they need to stay healthy, check out this list of the top 10 ways to stay active at home. You can also find some of these and many other at-home routines for all ages in our calendar of free online accessible exercise routines and ideas (meditations and dance classes too).

exercises for elderly

Exercise is Important, Especially for Older Adults

According to past science, older people are likely to suffer the most health impacts from being confined at home. In fact, studies show that when adults (of any age) reduce their physical activity due to injury or illness, they quickly lose endurance and strength and begin to experience muscle loss and early signs of insulin resistance. While these effects usually reverse in younger people once they start exercising normally again, in older adults, the negative health effects can linger for much longer.

That’s why experts are worrying about how the quarantine is affecting older adults during the stay-at-home orders, mainly because the lockdown could potentially cause health declines similar to those that happen when aging adults are bedridden or hospitalized. If you or someone you love is an older adult or has functional limitations such as joint replacements or arthritis, engaging in regular physical exercise is critical for staying healthy and delaying the onset of frailty.

10 Activities to Try While Staying at Home

The following activities and exercises are perfect for older people who are stuck at home and looking for ways to maintain their overall health and stave off the negative effects of aging. However, all of us, regardless of age, should try to move however and whenever we can, using whatever equipment we already have in our homes.

  1. Walking

Formally known as “aerobic conditioning” walking can help to keep the body flexible while boosting your heart rate. Try strolling from room to room during a commercial break. Walk up and down the hallway or around the room while talking on the phone. If you have stairs, climb a flight or two to strengthen your legs. Aim to take a walk at least three times per day.

  1. Wall Squats

A wall squat requires no equipment and little expertise, but it can significantly improve leg strength. Keeping your legs shoulder-distance apart, stand a foot away from a wall. Press your back against it and gradually lower your body until your legs are parallel to the floor and form a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for as long as you can, whether that means five seconds or 30 seconds, and slide back up carefully.

  1. Arm Curls

Looking to boost your upper-body strength? Check the pantry! Water bottles or cans of soup are great for arm curls. Hold an object in one hand, resting your arm by your side. Keep your palms facing forward, and slowly bend your elbows to curl the bottle or can upward. Lower your arm and repeat on the other side.

  1. Shoulder Raises

Similarly, to strengthen your arm and shoulders, fill an empty gallon jug halfway with water, hold it in front of you with both hands, keep your arms straight, and lift it out in front of you to about face height. If you are able, continue to raise your arms until they are straight above your head. Lower slowly and repeat. This exercise is great for those with weak legs and ankles as you can easily do it while sitting down and watching television.

  1. Push-Ups

Whenever you are in the kitchen, try countertop push-ups. Stand back a few feet from the counter, lean toward it, flex from your ankles, and keep your back straight. Hold onto the counter and bend and straighten your elbows. Complete as many as you can or try to coincide your push-ups with the time needed to warm your coffee or soup in the microwave. Doing push-ups off of a wall is also a great modification if you find that countertop push-ups are too strenuous.

  1. Gardening

Being stuck at home doesn’t necessarily mean you are confined within your walls. If you have the space and a green thumb, consider creating a garden in your backyard. Even ordering seeds online and arranging an indoor herb garden, as easy and inactive as that might seem, is still a great way to get older adults up out of their chairs and moving around.

  1. Online Exercise Classes

If you prefer to add a little variety to your day and you enjoy group activities, why not check out all free instructional videos and our calendar of online exercise classes? The internet is overflowing with live or do-anytime events, along with options for the first-timer or elderly. Try a Zumba or dance class if you feel coordinated and vigorous or Tai Chi for something that’s a little gentler on the body.

  1. Tug-of-War

Take a sock, a t-shirt, or a hand towel, anything fabric, and grasp it firmly in both hands. Place your hands, thumbs together, under your chin with your elbows raised out to either side and your forearms parallel to the floor. Pull with both hands to stretch the towel and have a “tug-of-war” with yourself. Allow your right side to win, then relax back to the center, and allow your left side to win.

  1. Dance, Dance, Dance

If taking a stroll doesn’t make your once-active soul soar, why not dance instead? Put on some music for 15 to 30 minutes per day, and let it all out! Alternate between fast, blood-pumping tunes and slower songs that can provide a much-needed break. Remind yourself that there’s no need to feel self-conscious about your moves (or lack thereof!) since you’re in the comfort of your own home.

  1. Essentrics

If you have ever watched Miranda Esmonde-White’s specials on TV such as the Classical Stretch show, the Aging Backwards docuseries, or the Forever Painless workouts -- that is Essentrics! In addition to being on TV, check out YouTube, where you can find several free programs designed specifically for older adults that embrace the aging process and include workouts for every fitness level. We’ve included some in our calendar of online exercise classes.

Regardless of whether you are an older adult looking to stay active or you are concerned about the health and mobility of a loved one during these unprecedented times, there are plenty of at-home activities and exercises designed to keep us active while quarantined. We included options above designed for everyone from the sedentary to the active, so choose based on your current physical abilities. However, keep in mind that, above all, the best exercise is the one you do.

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