Sore back? Achy knees? Tight in places you have never been tight before? Strange, isn’t it? Considering we have been in quarantine for just over a month, which means we are not really doing a whole lot to cause these pains. Or so we think. Have you been staying active? Believe it or not, being in a sedentary environment such as we are causes strain on even the most habitually desk- or couch-bound person.
With the closure of non-essential businesses, we kissed our access to our beloved gyms, workout classes, and activities goodbye. And with stay-at-home orders across the United States (and New England weather that is utterly confusing), our opportunities to get out and moving on our own are quite limited. But our bodies need movement to remain functional. So, even if you aren’t someone who exercises regularly, the simple act of commuting to work or your daily activities helped keep your muscles loose and your joints nimble. Now what?
Plus, the added stress and anxiety that comes with quarantine forces our bodies into positions that reflect how we are feeling: shoulders turn inward, back folds forward, head hangs low. The perfect equation for discomfort. We are all feeling new or pronounced aches and pains due to the pandemic. However, while self-isolation is rough on all our bodies, it is particularly detrimental to the physical health of our senior loved ones who may not be as active as they used to be.
Staying Active: Easy Ways to Get Moving During Quarantine:
The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of work to start feeling better. In fact, simply being more mindful of how you carry yourself, and making a point to move just a little more, can make all the difference. Here are some easy ways your senior loved ones can relieve themselves of pain during self-isolation.
Walk Around the Neighborhood
Going out for a walk is not against the rules… yet! Walking is immediately accessible for most and can be done just about anywhere. If you are used to going to work or a daytime activity, you may not realize just how often you were on your feet; now, being homebound, you don’t have to go very far to get what you need!
Taking a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood is an excellent way to stretch your legs and get your blood flowing. If you are lucky enough to live near a trail, even better! Walking is low-impact and easy on the joints. In fact, studies have found that walking may protect against arthritis, and can help reduce arthritis-related pains. The fresh air will also work wonders for your mental health during this difficult time.
Practice Tai Chi
Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that can be easily practiced at home. The exercise combines slow movements, meditation, and deep breathing, with the intent of stimulating vital energy, or “chi.” The ancient tradition has become a popular exercise among older adults in the Western world, largely due to its accessibility: it is another low impact exercise, making it easy on the muscles, joints, and tendons, it can be performed anywhere, and it requires no equipment.
Some benefits of tai chi include:
- Improved balance, which decreases the risk of falls
- Increased flexibility and stability in the ankles
- Boosted core strength, which reduces back pain and aids stability
- Strengthened muscles in the legs
- Improved cognitive function and memory
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Increased strength for people suffering from chronic illness, such as heart disease and cancer
Considering the nature of being in self-isolation, and the increased risk of feeling lonely during this difficult time, the mental and emotional advantages of tai chi are of particular importance. If you are stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, give it a try in your backyard or living room. Due to the inability to find an instructor at this time, the next best way to learn is by watching online videos for beginners, of which there are plenty!
Take Frequent Breaks
It’s easy to get so absorbed in our favorite Netflix shows or the ongoing news related to COVID-19 that we lose track of time (in fact, too much news can trigger coronavirus anxiety). What was meant to be an hour indulgence has turned into several hours of being inactive, which is not doing our bodies any favors.
Treat your day like you would if you were not stuck at home; take breaks every hour or so, whether to use the restroom, dance, water plants, make a phone call, or simply take a lap around your house. Exercise devices like FitBits have features that remind users to “get up and move!” at the top of every hour, which is helpful if you are prone to forgetfulness.
Yoga & Stretching
Yoga has long been promoted as highly beneficial for older adults who struggle with osteoarthritis, imbalance, pain, and other physical limitations. Self-guided stretching is an easy way to promote flexibility, improve range of motion and mobility, and stave off joint deterioration. Holding a certain position for too long can damage tissue, cause muscle tightness, and promote pain in your joints.
And, considering how sedentary we are during quarantine, it should come as no surprise that you’re experiencing pains that you may not be used to:
- Neck and Shoulder Pain: If you are working from home, you are likely sitting in a non-ergonomic chair and hunching over your laptop or phone for hours on end. Tilting your head and neck for an extended period can create a lot of strain, which can make its way down your back. Also, if you are carrying coronavirus anxiety, this can quickly translate to tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Upper Back Pain: This can also be a cause of hunching over at your at-home workstation for too long. Your upper back and shoulder blades will quickly fatigue when your elbows aren’t at your sides for an extended period of time.
- Hip Pain: This may be a result of sitting a lot. When you are constantly bending at the waist, you are shortening your hip flexors, and thus, making them tight.
- Lower Back Pain: This is also a case of sitting too long or leaning forward excessively.
Yoga is ageless and adaptable, working with all body types, speeds, and abilities. Staying active is especially important for seniors. We recommend that seniors spend at least five minutes stretching a day, even if they aren’t experiencing muscle tightness.
While physical activity is essential in your overall health, don’t forget the importance of eating smart for brain and hearth health! Your diet is just as important as your exercise routine during this trying time. Also, be sure to discuss the best forms of exercise for your senior with a physician before getting started.