Helping the Older Community Remain Active at Home

Remaining Active at Home

Public Health England (PHE) have recently published a booklet called ‘Active at Home’ in a bid to inspire and encourage older adults to remain active and healthy during these precedented times in the safety of their own homes.

In the last 10 weeks, many of you may have had health check-ups, social meets and scheduled appointments cancelled, all of which can take a toll on mental wellbeing and physical health. Attempting to remain active- to a level that feels comfortable- is one of the best solutions to combat health-related issues such as loss of independence and feelings of depression and anxiety. Loss of muscle due to inactivity is the leading cause in strength reduction, reduced balance and increased falls.

Daily bouts of activity have been proven to elevate endorphin levels; the body’s natural stress reliever. This, in turn, helps eradicate gloomy moods, increases feelings of well-being and can decrease sensations of pain.  Alongside this, exercise can encourage a full night’s sleep, increase independence, help maintain weight, reduce your risk of unsteadiness (hence falls and fractures), regulate your bowels and reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and some cancers.

PHE advises that most people are safe to exercise within the comfort of their home, providing they have no health conditions, or such conditions are under control. However, if suffering from a heart, kidney or metabolic condition, these should first be discussed with your health care professional.

To exercise safely, you should first ensure you have a large enough space to move about in. This means tidying the area of any clutter that made prove to be a hazard.  Follow the next steps to ensure you remain as safe as possible when exercising:

-Ensure you have something sturdy (such as a worktop) nearby for support

-Make sure you have a glass of water within reaching distance. If you are exercising alone, also ensure you have a telephone nearby

-Wear clothes that are comfortable, easy to move in and shoes that can do up and provide support. They shouldn’t be slippery

-Start at an easy pace and build the tempo up gradually, but only to an extent you find comfortable

-Do not to hold your breath while exercising, breathe normally throughout. If you experience any severe pain or dizziness, stop and rest

Please note, it is common to feel a bit stiff and achey for a few days succeeding exercise. This is the body’s natural response and is a good sign. Continue to keep active and walk around and the discomfort will ease gradually.

PHE suggest attempting the following exercises 2-3 x a week to help remain strong and steady. The exercises can be split up throughout the day to help lessen the load if required and can be completed in sitting or standing- dependent upon the most comfortable and safest option.

Group one: Seated Exercises

Warm Up:

-Heel lifts. Place your feet flat on the floor. Raise your heels only and then lower again. Then lift your toes only and lower again. Complete for a total of 30 seconds.

-Chair marching. Lift one leg at a time, as if marching. Add your arms too, if comfortable

By the end of this warmup, your breathing should have elevated slightly.

Main Workout:

-3 x Arm raises. Raise your arms sideward above your head- like you would in a star jump. Lower back down slowly. To make this exercise harder, hold your arms for one second at the top. As this becomes easier, begin to add in one extra set of arm raises.

-Alternate leg extension. Straighten out one leg in front of you, hold for one second, and lower to the floor. Aim for 3 per leg. To make this harder, initially begin holding the leg for a 2-3 seconds and eventually work towards lifting the leg slightly off of the chair.

-3 x Bicep Curls. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides and bend one arm up, as shown. Slowly lower. Complete 3 per side. To make this harder, add a small weight such as a water bottle or tin of food.

Cool down:

-Hamstring stretch. Stretch one leg out in front of you and lean your body forward. Aim to reach your knee downward with your hand. You should feel a light stretch at the back of the leg. Hold for 20 seconds.

– Chest opener. Hold onto the seat of the chair and push your chest forward. Hold for 20 seconds. Once finished, take 3 deep breaths.

Group two: Standing Exercises.

Warm up:

-30 seconds of marching on the spot. To make this more difficult, aim to either raise your knees higher, increase the pace OR bring your arms into the mix. Ensure a stable surface is nearby.

– 3 x Shoulder rolls per shoulder. Raise your shoulders towards your ears and roll backwards in a circular motion.

Main workout:

-3 x Mini Squats. Holding onto a stable surface, slowly bend your knees. Push up and return to standing. Aim to not let the knees cave inwards. To make thi harder, either bend lower OR hold the bent position for longer (i.e 3 seconds)

-3 x lunges. Holding onto a stable surface, take a small step forward with one leg and bend both knees. Push back up. To make this harder, take a larger step (as tolerated)

-3 x Wall press ups. Place your hands against a wall just wider than shoulder width apart. Slowly bend and lower your face closer to the wall. To make this harder, move slower.

-3 x Heel raises. Using a wall for support, push onto your toes and slowly lower back down. To make this harder, move slower.

-3 x sideways leg lift. Holding onto a stable surface. Slowly lift one leg out to the side while keeping your body straight. Slowly return and repeat on the opposite leg. To make this harder, move even slower on the down phase.

Cool down- Same as previous 

Remember to start small and build up gradually, as the exercises begin to feel easier you can increase the repetitions to 4-10 maximum. If you want to make it harder still, you can build up to 3 sets of 4-10 repetitions for each exercise.

As a final note, some inspiration for keeping your life more active at home can include cleaning, dancing, gardening, going up and down the stairs, incorporating regular stretches, or going for regular walks.

To read the whole article, as well as have access to PHE’s advice regarding falls, injuries and how to keep safe during the Covid-19 pandemic alongside useful contacts, please visit: