As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many older adults are following the advice of public health experts and remaining at home to limit risk of exposure. Bad weather conditions can also keep people inside for days at a time. But a strong body and mind are as important as ever, and the good news is being indoors doesn’t mean having to give up on exercising.
There are many great health benefits to staying active, such as improving mobility and balance, developing muscle and bone strength, increasing energy and managing weight. Exercise can also reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
According to Dr. Gina Conflitti, chief medical officer for Medicare at Cigna, the advantages aren’t just physical: “Keeping active has a positive impact on mental health, too,” she said. “With regular exercise, many older adults enjoy better sleep, clearer thinking, lower stress and improved mood.”
According to Cigna, which serves many older adults through its Medicare Advantage plans, here are four simple tips for exercising in the comfort of home:
- Make a plan. What is your long-term goal? Having something to work toward is great motivation to keep up daily activity and set yourself up for success. Before you begin any physical activity, talk to your doctor about your health goals. Your doctor can provide guidance on exercises that are safe and attainable as you begin a new chapter of your wellness journey.
- Take it slow. You don’t have to run a marathon or even lift weights to keep fit – the most important thing is to just move. Start by walking around your house a few times a day or doing some gentle stretching. Just adding five minutes of activity to your day can make a difference in your overall health and mood. As your body gets used to daily movement, you can enhance your physical activities as recommended by your health care provider.
- Use what you have. You don’t need a gym to get a healthy workout. In fact, there are plenty of exercises you can do using items found around the house. For example, “chair dips” are an effective arm and shoulder workout – just place both feet on the ground, face away from a chair and support your body by putting your hands on the seat behind you with straight arms. Next, raise and lower yourself by bending and unbending your arms.
You can even exercise while seated. Hold your leg out in front of you and trace each letter of the alphabet. Work your feet and leg muscles by laying a kitchen towel on the floor, then use your toes to grab, release and push the fabric.
- Check your health care plan benefits. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you might be eligible for extra benefits such as at-home fitness programs, including free on-demand workouts accessible from your computer, smart device or phone, as well as gear, such as resistance bands.
Find more healthy aging and exercise tips at cigna.com/medicare/healthy-aging/physical-activity.
“As you start, remember to be flexible and stay positive,” Dr. Conflitti suggests. “Changing habits can take time, but every step is progress. If you haven’t reached a goal, don’t be hard on yourself – it’s most important to continue at your own pace.”