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How older people can stay active during lockdown

With most older people confined to their homes during the coronavirus outbreak, we explore some simple ways for keeping active indoors
  • Originally published: 11 April 2020
  • Last updated: 02 November 2020

During the coronavirus pandemic, it's best to do as much as you can to stay active indoors. This is especially important if you're an older person who may be more vulnerable to the illness.

If you have limited mobility, or aren't as fit as you used to be, it can be hard to know what sorts of exercises are safe to try at home. It's important to stay as active as possible though, even in these challenging times. Doing so can reduce your risk of a fall and help you maintain your independence for as long as possible. And people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and even dementia.

Starting an exercise routine can feel a little intimidating at first, but it doesn't have to be complicated. There are loads of simple routines you can try. And the good news is that many things you do every day anyway count towards your physical activity levels, such as cooking, housework or gardening.

The following tips may help you stay active during this time:

Break up long periods of sitting down

Many of us are finding that we're sitting down for quite a lot of the day at the moment. It's a good habit to try and get up once an hour and stretch your legs a little. Even if it's just walking to the kitchen to put the kettle on, or doing the washing up, it all helps.

But if you find standing difficult, just moving your arms and legs for a few minutes every hour will also help break up those long stretches of sitting.

Do some gentle stretching

Stretching is a great way to keep supple, and doing it daily can also help improve flexibility and balance. You can even do it sitting or lying down.

Try the following stretching exercise from Age UK:

  1. Sit on a chair
  2. Lift your leg up off the seat keeping your knee bent
  3. Return to sitting position
  4. Repeat with the other leg.

Try sitting exercises from your chair

Sitting doesn't necessarily mean being inactive. There are actually quite a few exercises you can do from a sitting position. But make sure to choose a chair that is stable, solid and doesn't have wheels. And you should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles.

Try this exercise from the NHS:

  1. Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor, cross your arms and reach for your shoulders
  2. Without moving your hips, turn your upper body to the left as far as is comfortable
  3. Hold for five seconds
  4. Repeat on the right side
  5. Repeat five times on each side.

Improve your balance

Better balance is key to reducing your chances of a fall, but you don't need to try anything tricky. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has six easy strength and balance exercises you can have a go at.

The one-leg stand is a good example:

  1. Stand close to a support (such as a chair) and hold it with one hand
  2. Balance on one leg, keeping the support knee soft and your posture upright
  3. Hold the position for 10 seconds
  4. Repeat on the other leg.

Check out the Joe Wicks workout for seniors

During the first national lockdown, personal trainer Joe Wicks (aka the Body Coach) became a household name for his daily YouTube workouts that the whole family can join in with. But if you're someone with limited mobility, the Wicks routine may be difficult to keep up with and could potentially lead to injuries.

He has added a few workouts for older people that are well worth looking into. These are gentle exercises that only take 10 minutes out of your day, but may help to improve flexibility, balance and strength. They're likely to give you a mood boost, too.

Listen to Sport England's 10 Today

If you'd prefer an audio alternative to a YouTube routine, Sport England's programme 10 Today may be worth exploring. You can listen online.

These easy-to-follow, 10-minute daily home exercises have been designed to help older people stay active at home during the lockdown.

Each episode details a simple routine that can be done at any time, whether sitting down or standing up. These exercises are adaptable to different fitness levels.

Keep up to date with all the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?