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Staying physically active during isolation: ideas for older adults

What the experts say

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised that staying home during the COVID-19 crisis for long periods of time can make it challenging to remain physically active. WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. This equates to about 20 minutes of activity that makes you feel out of breath but still able to maintain a conversation every day.

The exercise recommendations for older adults from the Australian Department of Health are similar:

  • Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience.
  • Be active every day in as many ways as you can.
  • Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity* on most, preferably all days.
  • If you can, also enjoy some regular vigorous activity for extra health and fitness.

The facts

A number of changes that come with ageing can affect t our balance. Research shows that from the age of 30 we start to lose muscle mass which leads to reduced muscle strength. People that are inactive can lose up to 8% of muscle mass per decade. That means by the time they reach the age of 80 they could have 40% less muscle mass. As well as loss of strength, changes in other systems such as our vision, inner ears, and sensory systems further leads to loss of balance.

The good news

An exercise program can prevent and even reverse muscle loss and weakness, improve balance and significantly reduce the rate of falls. Overall health can be vastly improved leading to better wellbeing and quality of life. Exercise makes us feel good!

Ways to get physically active

Here are some ideas to increase your level of physical activity from the comfort of your own home.

  • Take a short walk outside or up and down your passage inside your home.
  • Listen to some music and move to this (if you are unsteady on your feet you can do this while sitting in a chair).
  • Stretch your arms and legs while watching television.
  • Do some housework or gardening which you are capable of and safe doing.
  • Wash the car, climb stairs or walk your dog if it is safe for you to do so.
  • Choose some suitable exercises you have done before and create your own exercise program.
  • Search the internet for some simple exercises for people over the age of 65.

Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you feel any dizziness, shortness of breath of discomfort, stop and rest before continuing. Please ensure you only partake in those activities you know you are able to do safely.

We’re here to help

Our professional team of community physiotherapists have specialised skills working with seniors and exercise prescription. Depending on your individual circumstances, the team can conduct assessments and tailor individual exercise programs to your interests, needs and priorities. Ongoing Bethanie training enables the team to embrace current knowledge and practice, to provide you with the best possible care.

If you are unsure where to start or what you can safely do at home to increase your physical activity, please call us on 131 151 and request to speak to a member of the Bethanie Community Physiotherapy team. We look forward to assisting you to understand your unique situation.

*Moderate level physical activities: Physical activity at a level that causes your heart to beat faster and some shortness of breath, but that you can still talk comfortably while doing (Glasgow et al, 2005).

Download the guide here


Stay physically active during self-quarantine

Recommendations on physical activity for health for older Australians

Physical activity and sarcopenia in the Geriatric population. A systematic review. Szu-Ying Lee

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