A Second Wind: Staying fit while staying home

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By Mary Petersen

Signal Staff Writer

W

ho hasn’t heard the joke about COVID-19 — not referring to the name of the virus but the number of pounds gained during the pandemic’s stay-at-home restrictions?

The coronavirus has disrupted our routines and caused even active seniors to become more sedentary. Many who used to walk, take yoga classes or dance at social gatherings now find themselves at home and inactive.

Without grandchildren to chase around, they are burning fewer calories. Lack of physical activity combined with more time to eat results in that pesky weight gain. 

Weight gain, however, is not the only detrimental effect of the stay-at-home order. There are a number of mental and physical health effects that healthcare professionals are concerned about.

It’s common knowledge that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is also linked to anxiety and depression. COVID-19 has unfortunately created the conditions for adopting a daily routine of physical inactivity.

This information is not as grim as it sounds, however. There are plenty of opportunities to get moving and stay active during these challenging times.

With a little effort and creativity, we can counter the “COVID-19.” First we need to acknowledge that our former routines have been disrupted.

We don’t do well when our daily schedules are upended, and as frustrating as it is, it’s important to create new routines and be consistent.

The National Council on Aging recommends moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. It also advises doing muscle-strengthening activities for two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups. 

Experts say the main thing is to keep moving, even inside the home. Walk up and down stairs to promote endurance. Approach chores like scrubbing, sweeping and vacuuming as work-outs for arm and leg muscles.

Engage in leg stretches, shoulder rolls and arm circles while watching TV to develop flexibility. Try balancing on one leg and then the other to promote stability.

If you have a backyard or courtyard, determine a number of laps that you will complete each day and then do it. Perhaps the most effective way to keep moving is to take advantage of technology. Many gyms and yoga studios offer online videos and live stream classes, some for free. Even YouTube has fitness channels for seniors. 

The benefits of exercise are indisputable. It strengthens the immune system and protects the cardiovascular system. It helps to maintain strength, balance and flexibility that reduce the risk of falling. It releases endorphins that revitalize the mind and keep the spirits up. 

In these times of endless uncertainty, there are some things that remain within our control. While keeping fit won’t prevent contracting the virus, being active does provide important protective benefits. Exercise helps boost energy levels and maintain our quality of life. Lisa Stuebing, older adult fitness instructor, says, “You don’t have to beat yourself up if you’re not exercising every day. Just start where you are.”

Mary Petersen is a retired COC English instructor, 30-year SCV resident and two-time breast cancer survivor. 

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