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Fitness Tips for Seniors While Staying at Home

May 29, 2020 ● By Carrie Jackson

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by Carrie Jackson

We are all experiencing a radical disruption of scheduled activities while we shelter in place, and one of the most drastic changes is in our movement routines. Many seniors have a trainer, Pilates teacher, gym membership or exercise classes at a senior center, but with facilities closed, they are challenged with finding ways to keep moving. We talked with several local fitness experts that offer creative ways for seniors to stay active and holistically maintain their physical, emotional and mental health.

Take Movement Breaks Throughout The Day

We are doing more sitting, whether talking to friends and family on Zoom or the phone, watching a lot of TV or taking webinars. After a long conversation, get up and take a walk or get on the floor or bed and do some stretching. Search for articles or YouTube videos for gentle core exercises, stretching or yoga for seniors. Many local teachers are doing Zoom classes to help keep people moving right now. It is important to remember that movement does not have to mean an hour of exercise. It can be as simple as a few minutes a couple times a day to keep our muscles going, our circulation moving and our minds alert.

Diane Roth is the founder of Roth Structural Integration, in Highland Park. 

Walk to Maintain Muscle Strength

Seniors that may have enjoyed walking outside can now turn on a walking video to walk to in their house. One favorite is the Tuesday FAST Walking in 30 minutes video series on YouTube. Muscle-building is extremely important for senior health. They can do simple body weight exercises such as leg lifts, bicep curls, crunches and squats, or use light weights along with high repetitions to target the gluteal, quadriceps and abdominals. In addition to exercise, it is also important to get enough sleep, eat healthy and use tools like meditation to reduce the amount of stress in our lives.

Dr. Meena Malhorta is the founder of Heal n Cure Medical Wellness & Antiaging, in Northbrook.

Yoga as Part of a Regular Routine

Create a disciplined schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time. Drink 32 ounces of water with fresh-squeezed lemon to clean out the liver and strengthen the immune system. Meditate, journal, walk outdoors for 20 to 30 minutes and practice yoga for grounding, centering, clearing, clarity and focus. These essential yoga poses for people over 50 target hip health, bone strength, brain health and help balance the nervous system: butterfly, standing or seated forward fold, child’s pose, downward dog, triangle, warrior one and two, tree pose and bridge pose. Stay in each pose for five long, deep breaths, followed by lying down for  five to 25 minutes of deep relaxation and an Epsom salt bath.

Lisa Faremouth-Weber is the founder of Heaven Meets Earth Yoga Studio, in Evanston. Email  [email protected] or text 312-933-3936 for a free yoga Zoom class during June.

Connect with Nature and Dance

Seniors should keep a regular routine, get enough sleep, nourish their body with fresh fruits and vegetables, and find movement every day. It’s important to safely spend some time in nature, feel the sun on our skin and see the green in the trees. Seniors can boost their cardiovascular system by doing walking intervals outside and complement that with dance or stretching classes that help with balance, flexibility and strength, and reduce the risk of falls. They can ask their grandchildren to help them with Zoom and YouTube and find classes they can do using a chair or the kitchen sink as a barre for stability. Finis Jhung, an 82-year-old ballet instructor, teaches online from his apartment. They can also use Zoom to reduce isolation and stay connected with friends and family, or try a painting class to keep their brains engaged.

Lynne Belsky, M.D., is the cofounder of CBG Institute for Dance and Health, which is offering beginning ballet and tap classes for seniors online starting June 9. 

Keep Food Journals and Vary Workouts

To stay healthy during this time, I encourage people to get walking outside, stretch frequently to maintain mobility, and if weight loss is a goal, to keep a food diary so that they can track what’s going in their body. Seniors especially can benefit from functional fitness, a classification of training that prepares the body for real-life movements and activities. Functional training includes air squats, like getting up from a chair; deadlifts, or picking up items from below the waist; and overhead presses, like putting things away on a top shelf in the kitchen or closet. Performing these movements with just body weight is a great way to start improving strength and help maintain bone density. Over time, you can increase the intensity by incorporating moderate weights; even use household items such as a bottle of detergent or a can of soup.

Rowena Dziubla is the owner of GetFitEGV, in Elk Grove Village. 

Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at