Promoting physical activity & exercise in the elderly


Promoting physical activity & exercise in the elderly


Sunday, May 03, 2020

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AS we continue to navigate what has become our new “normal” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is encouraging to see individuals participating in physical activity and exercising at home and in their communities — while observing social distancing, of course.

Although the mantra is for us to stay at home, those who have been especially impacted by the measures being implemented to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus are the older individuals in our population. As we know, this is in an effort to decrease their risk of infection and suffering from the effects of the virus due to normal physiological changes that occur as we age.

However, this is not an excuse to not keep physically active while at home, especially during this time.

We need to encourage and support physical activity and exercise now, more than ever. The simple action of walking to the gate and back, a few times in the morning and/or evening, or even walking around and tending to a garden can go a far way.

Physical activity and exercise have been proven to:

•Boost our immune system, allowing us to fight off infections and diseases;

•Improve emotional health;

•Increase muscle strength;

•Increase bone strength;

•Improve heart and lung health and function.

Here are a few tips to keep your elderly loved ones in their best health:

•Maintain a balanced diet;

•Do not discontinue any medication without consulting your physician;

•Ensure access to at least one month's supply of medication;

•Wash hands regularly;

•Try to roll up and/or put away rugs, mats and small furniture to help decrease the risks of falls;

•Reduce hours of sitting and laying in bed; and

•Practise safe, at-home exercises.

Exercises to practise at home

•Walk with moderate intensity — you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation while walking. This should be done, ideally, for 15–30 minutes. However, if prior to this they had not been participating in physical activity, aim for five-to-10-minute intervals and increase the time as they improve.

•Deep-breathing exercises throughout the day to maintain and maximise respiratory health.

•Use a chair to do some sit-to-stand exercises, heel raises, arm circles, seated knee extensions, and to march on the spot.

Before taking part in any physical activity or exercise programme, ensure that you contact your physiotherapist and/or doctor as some activities may need to be modified for you or your elderly loved one.

We are all in this together. Let's stay healthy, happy and strong!

Raejean Porter is a registered physiotherapist and Buff Bones trained instructor.

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