Life Wellbeing Older people can (and should) exercise at home. Here’s an easy 10-step program
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Older people can (and should) exercise at home. Here’s an easy 10-step program

Older people Photo: Getty
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Congratulations grandpa. You’ve put yourself in lockdown to avoid the coronavirus.

You’re motivated to survive this crisis.

Now get out of that rocker and start moving, because saving your life isn’t just about laying low – it’s important you do some exercise every day.

But how?

The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has drawn up a workout program for people aged 65 and over – and the institute’s researchers are so concerned for your wellbeing, they are welcoming queries by email about keeping fit.

Why reach out to old people?

Dr Rachel Climie is exercise physiologist and Heart Foundation Research Fellow from the Sports Cardiology Lab at the Baker Institute.

Dr Climie told The New Daily: “We know that people aged 65 and over have been recommended not to engage with the public so much and that instead they should remain isolated or at home.

“This means that probably the older population are not feeling comfortable about getting outside and doing their regular activities.”

But they need to be doing something.

Dr Climie points to the landmark Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study that were carried out in 1966 with healthy young men, then followed up 30 years later.

The short version: Researchers found that three weeks of bed-rest deconditioning (lying there and doing nothing) had a more profound impact on physical work capacity than 30 years of ageing.

In other words, lying there and doing nothing is more damaging than decades of getting older.

In their follow-up, the researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre found that six months of exercise can reverse the decline in physical conditioning associated with ageing.

Also, it’s worth noting that one of the key factors causing severe symptoms in patients with COVID-19 is poor cardiac health.

Regular exercise is a great boost to your heart.

“So we’ve put together some resources to support this older population so they can continue to do physical activity in the comfort of their home or in their back garden,” Dr Climie said.

The program is as follows

  1. Start and finish each session with five minutes warming up and cooling down. This involves shuffling around the house
  2. Then do 10 minutes of cardio. This involves brisk walking around the house, stair-climbing or marching on the spot, at a pace that makes you huff and puff
  3. Then proceed with these seven exercises, performed at a controlled rate. The goal is to do 10 to 12 repetitions. Starting out, though, you might only manage two or three, and that’s OK. Don’t be discouraged. You’ll gradually do more
  4. Squats. Use a chair and avoid the risk of landing on your backside. Basically stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down
  5. Wall push-ups. Lean forward with your hands flat against the wall and push your body so you’re vertical again. As you get stronger, progress to doing push-ups off the kitchen bench or dining table
  6. Step-ups. Step up on to a stair with one foot, followed by the other. Then step back. Alternate which foot you lead with. Keep a chair nearby for safety or work close to a hand rail
  7. Seated leg extension. Lift up one leg, so it’s horizontal, as best you can. Then the other leg
  8. Standing hamstring curl.  This simply standing straight and bringing your foot up behind you, so your calf is parallel with the floor. Right leg, left leg, right leg, left leg. Keep a chair nearby if you have balance issues
  9. Shoulder press. Using small dumb bells, TheraBands, bottle of water or cans of soups as weights in each hand. stand like a victorious boxer with your elbows sticking out from your shoulders, your hands raised up in line with your ears, then push up so your arms are straight. Repeat
  10. Calf raises. This is a fancy name for standing on your toes. Lift up, drop down, lift up, drop down.

Important to remember

The seven exercises need to be repeated three times each.

Dr Climie advises that you don’t have do these repetitions at the one time.

You could do the first set of seven exercises after breakfast, the second at lunchtime and the third after dinner.

She advises that you stay well hydrated (water), wear appropriate footwear (not sandals or thongs) and try to exercise at the same time each day, so you can establish a routine.

To access a pdf with these exercises illustrated, go here.

The Baker Institute also has programs for healthy adults, people living with heart disease, people living with diabetes and people living with cancer. These programs can be accessed here.

To contact Dr Climie with any questions, write to exercisephysiology@baker.edu.au

And remember: If you feel unwell or light-headed, stop exercising.

If you continue to feel unwell, contact your doctor.

Otherwise, go for it.

Your grandchildren are looking forward to seeing you again when the coronavirus has been defeated and we are free to mingle again.

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