Exercise for Elders: Accessible Fitness During Quarantine

Quarantine is the safest option to take in order to protect yourself and your families from the Coronavirus, however, there is an unfortunate irony to our homestead strategy; the physical strain of sedentary behavior. Excessive sitting and minimal daily movement can have dire consequences to the health and wellness of senior citizens. This can be especially difficult for elders who live alone, or in retirement care facilities who may not have as many reasons or reminders to include movement into their schedule. Therefore, it is important to create a daily routine to include gentle exercise in order to minimize sedentary health risks. If you want to reverse the risk progression, you would have to ensure you have clearance from your doctor for exercises of moderate intensity.

The exercises and activities mentioned below are options for you to consider, however, it is ultimately up to you and your doctor or home care worker to create a tailored program for you. Use accessible options as available and ask for help when necessary. In order to build a simple routine, it has proven to be more effective if you attach it to another established routine. This makes the new one easier to remember which in turn will improve your consistency. For instance, you have the pre-existing routines of having breakfast, lunch and dinner, so attach your exercise routine and do it before or after your meal. If there is another routine you have which you do 3-5 times a day, you could instead attach this exercise routine to those activities. All of these exercises can be done almost anywhere and either alone or with loved ones, so put on your favorite music, podcast, TV show or radio station and have fun!

Sample exercises: 

Bodyweight exercises
  • Arm Circles:
    • Small circles forward and backward 5-10 times.
    • Medium circles forward and backwards 5-10 times.
    • Large circles forward and backward 5-10 times.
  • Squat – Move smoothly into the squat position and hold. Then stand up. Repeat 5- 10 times. Hold a chair or countertop as necessary.
  • Standing Plank to Push Up
    • With arms pressed against the wall or high countertop, hold at a slight incline and with control push down and back up. You can increase the incline for higher intensity. Repeat 5- 10 times.
  • Calf Raise to Calf stretch
    • While standing tall or holding onto a chair, raise yourself on your toes and hold, then release back down. Then step back with one foot and stretch, then the other foot. Come back to a standing position to repeat 5 – 10 times.
  • March with High Knees
    • While standing tall or holding onto a chair, lift one knee to waist height, hold, then repeat with the other knee. Repeat exercise 5-10 times.
  • Butt Kicks
    • While standing tall or holding onto a chair, lift one foot back trying to touch your heel to your back, and then repeat with other foot. Repeat exercise 5-10 times.
  • Walking
    • If you have access to safe space, whether that is a larger room, a hallway or your backyard, walk the perimeter 5-10 times or as long feels comfortable to you.
  • Dancing
    • Freestyle! Put on your favorite music to groove to. Any dance counts! Disco, two-step, country line box step, waltz, etc. If you have roommates or grandchildren now is the time to teach them your favorite moves or challenge them to a dance-off.

Always ensure that you are being mindful of your body and performing these exercises gently and consistently. You know your body best, so take breaks as necessary and do not push yourself to harm. Most of all, these are only a few movements to get you started. There are so many options you can choose from if some of these do not feel good to perform. As well, the best movement authentically brings you joy and feels good. So get creative and try and include your interests, such as gardening, cooking, and other hobbies, into movement.