We’ve been checking out all sorts of home exercises for the elderly based on different levels of mobility. For people who are finding mobility difficult, staying active and keeping moving is hard.
And while over 70s are staying at home to protect themselves from Covid-19, it can be even more of a challenge.
The World Health Organisation advises that adults over 65 should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity on a weekly basis, or around 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.
The Green Goddess and Mr Motivator, both 80s fitness gurus (and now 80 and 67 respectively) are back on our TV screens to get us to get up off the sofa with a range of home exercises for the elderly.
The benefits for the elderly of exercising at home
Why think about exercise for the elderly at home? It helps your memory; makes you feel happier, and keeps your muscles and bones strong. So helping your elderly relative to stay as active and mobile as they can is a no brainer, isn’t it? Not only that, it helps manage their weight; is social and enjoyable; can help to reduce the pain caused by arthritis; and can help control their blood pressure.
Sounds like a big ask? We have our top suggestions on fitness activities to be done at home, from chair-based to the kitchen dance floor!
Gentle, chair-based exercise for the elderly at home
Ryan Hughes is the Physical Activity Project Officer for the Mobile Me programme run by Active Norfolk, which focuses on the over 65s and is designed to address barriers to participation within this age group.
In terms of exercise in the home, we like to emphasise that every little bit of activity an older person can do will have a positive effect, no matter how light. The majority of people can do some kind of activity and the level of this will be dependent on the individual.
As well as the Mobile Me programme, Active Norfolk is able to offer advice on seated exercises people can do in the home, and can support people in accessing instructors or training for seated exercise, if they wish.
Some simple chair-based home exercises to try
Here are some mobility exercises you can do in your chair. Don’t worry if you’ve not done much for a while – these seated exercises are gentle and easy to follow.
For these exercises, choose a solid, stable chair that doesn’t have wheels. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles. Avoid chairs with arms, as these will restrict your movement.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing and keep some water handy. Build up slowly and aim to gradually increase the repetitions of each exercise over time.
- Ankle rolls – draw a circle with your big toe in the air in both directions.
- Seated marching – start gentle and build up the pace. Swing your arms too if you find this easy.
- Stretch out your chest muscles gently by squeezing your shoulder blades together then relax. Repeat five to six times, morning and night.
Free home exercise videos for the elderly
Our friend Claudine of Vida Wellness has a FREE video course of exercises, plus a wealth of experience, in keeping older people moving – and enjoying it!
Over five years, I watched my grandmother lose the ability to get up and down the stairs. That meant she had to sleep in her living room, because she couldn’t get up to the bedrooms… And at my wedding reception, we had to carry her up the stairs to drink with us. It was heartbreaking.
There’s a lot more to her story but the point is that I saw and felt the impact of reduced fitness on my grandmother’s life. This is one of the reasons why I do the work I do.
I have seen what can happen to people who have trouble with their balance, when a trip on the pavement becomes a bad fall. They go from leading full, active lives to losing confidence and being frightened to go out. Broken wrists, shoulders and hips can be hard to recover from. The result of just one trip or fall on the pavement can be devastating.Claudine, the founder of Vida Wellness
Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, has a 10-minute home chair workout specially designed for older people. It can be accessed on his YouTube channel here.
The NHS offers a gentle, seated exercise programme focussing on flexibility, balance and strength.
Yoga for physical and mental fitness
Yoga is becoming an accepted main stream practice, rapidly losing its mystical hippy image amongst older generations in the UK.
It can help with mobility, relaxation, reduce aches and pains, maintain muscle strength, and improves general strength and fitness.
Here are five simple poses for older beginners to try, suggested by The Chopra Centre.
The website Yoga Classes Near You has videos to introduce various styles and levels.
The NHS website has an-all-ability level video class of Vinyasa yoga here.
And for anyone in a wheelchair, WheelPower has a series of adaptive yoga video classes.
Pilates at home
Many have turned to Pilates sessions as a way to stay in shape while reducing the risk of injury that weight-bearing exercises may cause. With its focus on controlled breathing and quality of movement-not quantity of repetitions-many experts agree that Pilates is one of the best ways for older adults to stay healthy.
It is possible to get a full body strength workout at home because all you need is a mat and a Pilates routine.
Here is an NHS Fitness Studio introductory session of Pilates for Beginners.
Dance yourself happy!
The great thing about dance is that all you need is music! The perfect home work-out for elderly people, because anyone can join in to whatever’s on the radio, from hand-jive from the chair or on the kitchen dance floor!
Lots of ideas on Dancing for Fitness here.
Sadler’s Wells is expanding ‘Take Part’, its series of projects available to the wider community, by presenting a series of online workshops and activities for audiences to dance along to in their own homes. Available from Wednesday 1 April 2020, the Company of Elders workshop series is specially created for over 60s who may be staying at home due to social distancing.
Last but not least, what about belly dancing? It’s a fun way to get fit, so give it a whirl with this exercise video for beginners from the NHS. As well as the physical benefits, the combination of music and exercise can help to lift your mood.
Have you found good ways of keeping fit for your elderly relatives? Let us know on our friendly forum.
Join our Facebook group for people caring for the elderly through coronavirus.
And for more tips on keeping fit in older age, here are our tips for helping relatives who might feel unsteady on the stairs.