4 types of home exercises for seniors
Find out the different benefits and common errors.
Seniors understand that they must stay active to maintain their well-being, but few know how they can get creative with the current situation.
While some may still feel scared to go out and do their usual exercise routine with friends and neighbours, with a little imagination and motivation, they can stay healthy and safe during the pandemic while getting the physical activity they need.
Here are four types of exercises that seniors can do at home, their individual benefits, and common errors that seniors face when doing them:
1. STRENGTH – As part of the ageing process, seniors will slowly lose muscle mass and generally become weaker. If you are a caregiver, encourage the senior in your care to do strength exercises so he or she can continue to perform basic functions without much difficulty or help from others – like sitting to standing up from the sofa, or getting up from the bed.Here are some simple exercises seniors can do at home. Aim to use comfortable weights, hold for one to two seconds per side and do up to 12 to 15 repetitions in total.
A common error is that seniors do not challenge themselves enough. They tend to do too many repetitions, sometimes up to 100 times, which is incorrect. A good rule of thumb is to repeat as many times as you can and build up gradually to 20 repetitions. You may want to use a heavier weight if you can do more than 20 times at one go.
2. ENDURANCE – Endurance exercises help to increase your heart and breathing rate. When seniors do endurance exercises, they can go further, do things repetitively and enjoy the entire day without feeling tired or sluggish. This will help you sustain your entire day of physical activities such as going grocery shopping, playing with your grandchildren, etc.
Endurance helps with building stamina, so it is recommended that seniors do such exercises for a longer period of time – this could be walking or jogging, cycling or even gardening! For seniors with osteoporosis or arthritis, water aerobics is an effective option because it is a low-impact activity that’s easy on the joints.
Changing the mindset of seniors is always a challenge when it comes to endurance exercises. Sometimes, they feel like they have done enough because they have “already exercised this week”. On the other hand, if you are a caregiver, you must also ensure that the senior understands his or limits before going the extra mile, and refrain from pushing him or her too much.
3. BALANCE – Balance is the ability to control your body’s position – whether stationary or when moving. Extra precaution must be made for balance exercises as it could be unsafe if done alone, especially for those who are at risk of falling down or have medical conditions that may affect their balance.
Simple exercises, like side stepping or single leg standing, must be performed with close supervision if needed and a stable surface or even a chair can be used for additional support. Seniors can start by holding on to a stable object and gradually reducing the support. Aim to hold for five to 10 seconds per side and do up to eight to 10 repetitions in total.
A common error is holding on to support throughout the entire exercise without challenging your balance. However, there is always a risk of falling or injuring if you do lose balance so be sure to set up a safe environment. An extra advice is if seniors do fall, fall forwards and use your arms to break the fall.
4. FLEXIBILITY – Lastly, flexibility exercises help reduce the risk of injury when seniors exercise or do certain tasks. Inactivity may cause muscles or joints to stiffen or tighten up. Think of a rubber band when it is at its newest form – it can go the extra length when pulled, but may lose its elasticity when it is brittle or not used for quite some time.
For these exercises, seniors should hold for 30 to 60 seconds per exercise. If you feel pain or discomfort, start with a 10-second hold and build up gradually, and aim for one to three repetitions in total.
When it comes to flexibility, it is important to get the technique right. Some seniors may not stretch hard enough, while others only get into a range of movements such as bouncing, and miss reaping the full benefit of these exercises.
Other forms of exercises that can help seniors lift their moods and improve their mental well-being are Tai Chi, Zumba, aerobics and yoga. They incorporate a key breathing component that helps release certain hormones in your body and relieves mental and physical stress. What’s more, you can even jazz things up with some music or invite other family members to join in the fun.
It is recommended that seniors clock in 100 to 150 minutes of exercise per week. For beginners, you may start with 10 to 30 minutes a day, a few times a week. You may also choose to break it up into 10-minute intervals after breakfast, lunch and dinner, or switch between arms, legs and full body workouts throughout the week. Make sure you do the exercises not immediately after eating.
Having a step tracker also helps – just seeing how much you have accomplished so far will give you a strong sense of accountability of your physical and mental well-being. Of course, having adequate rest is important to recharge the body!
Siti Khalijah Binte Abdul Aziz is a senior physiotherapist at AWWA, a social service agency which serves persons of different demographics across life-stages yearly. Services include early intervention for pre-schoolers, education and disability support for children and adults with additional needs, assistance to low-income families, caregivers, and health and social assistance for vulnerable seniors.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/krakenimages)