At-home fitness is nothing new. For many years, people have walked on treadmills, lifted weights, or practiced yoga in the comfort of their living rooms. But with the onset of the COVID pandemic, people no longer had a choice about working out at home; it was, for many, their only option. This restriction was especially true for older adults who were most vulnerable to catching the virus and at the highest risk of getting seriously ill. For them, continuing their exercise programs – or starting new ones – was more important than ever.
According to a OnePoll survey done for the website Freeletics, 74% respondents used at least one app for exercise during quarantine, and 40% reported it was the first time they had ever used an app for training. It’s a good bet many of those will keep using apps and online programs because they’re convenient, inexpensive and, in many cases, far safer than a gym. Seniors are discovering how easy it is to keep up with a fitness plan from the comfort of their own homes.
What should older adults do to start an exercise program?
The CDC recommendation for older adults getting started with exercise is two and a half hours per week, which can be scheduled like this:
- Monday: Two 15-minute walks, chair exercises or weight training
- Tuesday: 30 minutes of Zumba, aerobics or yoga
- Wednesday: Two 15-minute walks, chair exercises or weight training
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: 30 minutes of Zumba, aerobics or yoga
- Saturday: Two 15-minute walks, chair exercises or weight training
- Sunday: Rest
“After age 60, and especially after 65, seniors should think about taking classes that work on maintaining muscle and core strength, flexibility and range of motion with a substantial focus on balance,” said Joy Fletcher, co-founder of Agile 4 Life Fitness, which offers both group training and personal training classes online. “And this should be done without any great distance between the floor and their feet [to avoid possible injury].”
Note that these are only recommendations, and starting any exercise program should be cleared with your older adult’s primary care physician.
What equipment do seniors need to be ready for exercise programs?
There’s no reason to invest a lot of money in fancy machines or other things to start an at-home fitness program. However, a few essential items are needed to get started with an exercise program at home, including:
- An exercise mat for floor exercises (and comfort for bare feet) or non-slip socks for stretching and yoga
- Two-pound hand weights for strengthening exercises
- Sturdy and comfortable walking shoes for men or women
If your loved one lives in a senior living community, you may be able to borrow some of these for them to try out online programs in their apartment before purchasing them.
Online exercise programs and apps for seniors
Seniors have many options for online exercise classes. And because seniors are becoming more and more comfortable with technology, including smartphones and tablets, apps are an excellent way to find precisely the type of exercise they enjoy doing.
These are some of the most popular and highly rated:
Many people, especially older adults, have found their way to the Chinese practice of tai chi, the ancient art of controlled movement that can aid in maintaining balance, focus and mobility. SilverSneakers recommend this app for its members.
As physical therapists who cover a vast range of topics, Bob and Brad bill themselves as “the most famous physical therapists on the internet,” and with 3.75 million subscribers, that may be true. They offer exercise videos and talk about sleep positions, cold feet, which back massagers are best, and much more. Bob and Brad aren’t specifically for older adults, but so much of their content pertains to seniors that they’re worth a look.
This online website offers a wide range of exercise classes that build strength, balance and range of motion. A physical therapist created it to help older adults get fit and avoid the pitfalls of being inactive as they age.
This website offers free videos, podcasts and motivational talks. In addition, customers can get a tailor-made workout plan for $45.
Some of the free classes include:
- 5-minute seated abs
- 10-minute balance workout
- Seated stretches
- Beginner arm workout
SilverSneakers is for those 65 and over and is connected with Medicare plans. The largest fitness company focused on senior health, SilverSneakers has been around since 1992. There are plenty of classes to choose from every day, along with health tips, recipes and more. SilverSneakers has an app as well as online classes.
Fifty-six-year-old April Hattori and her 80-year-old mother, Aiko, lead these videos of various exercises, with a new one added each week. Along with the exercises, the videos offer practical tips, including going up and down from the floor and how your older adult can make fitness an integral part of daily life.
The Yoga Studio app has a wide variety of yoga classes based on skill level or the length of time they want to exercise. The app is available at various prices depending on how much your loved one will use it.
Whatever method your senior chooses to use – a website, a YouTube channel, an app – the best part of doing exercise at home is staying healthy and fit and maintaining strength and balance. If your loved one stays healthy and robust, they’ll be able to enjoy their life for much longer, and it will make your caregiving job much more manageable.