Stay active in the home: Tips for working out without going out
By Mary Anna Rodabaugh
Staying active as you age is essential for physical, mental and emotional health. But you do not need to hit the gym to get in a good workout. There are many exercises you can do in the comfort of your home. The key is knowing what types of exercises produce the most benefits and how to correctly execute each move.
A properly designed exercise routine will address balance, strength, flexibility and aerobic exercise together.
“When I work with older adults, I focus on strength,” says Philadelphia personal trainer Phil Nicolaou, who holds a doctorate in Exercise Science, Fitness Training and Sports Medicine. “Aerobics does not address strong skeletal muscles, balance or joint health.”
If you suffer a fall and your exercise routine is strictly cardio, your joints and bones will not be as strong as someone who focuses on strength training.
Nicolaou suggests locating common household items to use as weights. These objects can be anything from water bottles to frying pans. The weights do not have to be heavy but should provide a manageable amount of resistance.
“Some of the best exercises an older adult can and should do are deadlifts, which mimics picking up objects off the floor and raising them to waist level,” Nicolaou says. “Squats are also important and very functional in daily life.”
Nicolaou describes the following additional exercises that can be performed at home:
Squats – To complete a squat, stand with your legs hip-width apart. You can place your hands on your hips or on a chair for balance. Slowly bend your knees as if you were about to sit down on a chair. Do not let your knees move forward past your toes. Return to the starting position.
Bent over row – Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Hold a bottle of water in each hand, grasping the middle of the bottle. In one fluid motion, gently bend your torso forward while keeping your head up and back straight. Draw your elbows backward. Return to starting position.
Wall pushup – Stand arms-length away from a wall. Press your palms against the wall direct in front of you, shoulder width apart. Slowly lower your chest into the wall, pause a moment, then return to the starting position.
“Flexibility is also a critical component of training as set forth by the International Fitness Professionals Association,” says Nicolaou. “The nice thing about weight training is that it (enhances) flexibility to work through the range of motion of the exercise.”
Stretching is a key component of flexibility. Simply reaching for the ceiling and holding the stretch for 30 seconds can increase flexibility. To work your chest muscles, you can stand in a doorway, extend your arms to either side of the doorframe, then gently push your body forward while maintaining balance.
For balance, try standing on one leg for 20 seconds. Perform two sets per leg and try to avoid touching the wall but stand close to it if needed.
You do not need a bike, treadmill or rowing machine to complete aerobic exercise. In fact, combining strength and flexibility exercises into a circuit with a specific number of repetitions for each move will increase your heart rate.
Consider creating your own circuit featuring each exercise: squats, wall pushups, deadlifts and bent over rows. Complete 15 repetitions of each exercise and repeat the circuit a second time. If you cannot do 15 repetitions of all the exercises, start with five reps of each and work you way up over time.
There are many different exercises you can complete while sitting in a chair that can build your strength and flexibility. Here are some examples:
Shoulder press – Sit with your back straight and your feet firmly planted on the floor. While holding the center of a water bottle in each hand, bring your arms next to your shoulders to form the shape of a cactus. With your palms facing outward gently push your arms above your head and slowly return to the “cactus arms” starting position.
Leg lifts – Lift one leg and draw small circles in the air without touching the ground. Put that leg down, then repeat with other leg.
Bicep curl – While holding a water bottle in each hand around the middle of the bottle, gently pull your forearms to your chest, bringing the water bottles near your shoulder. Return to starting position.
“Keep it simple,” says Nicolaou. “The weight amount is never as important as proper form. Work within a range of a 6 or 7 out of 10 for difficulty. I have found this range is more than sufficient.”
Overall, there are plenty of simple exercises you can do using household items as weights to boost your cardio and strength fitness. Have a little fun with it.
Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.