Exercise At Home: How to Improve Stamina, Mobility and Balance
Although exercise may sound great, it’s often difficult to get out of your house and go for a walk or to the gym. However, an active lifestyle can keep you in your home longer. Exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions, including heart disease and arthritis.1 Physical exertion can also benefit brain activity, preventing memory loss and slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s.2 Older adults are recommended to have 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week and muscle-strengthening activities for at least two days a week.3 This week, Staying Put at Home will look at some simple aerobic, balance and core strengthening exercises that you can do at home that will improve your stamina, mobility and balance.
Increased aerobic and cardiovascular activity has been linked to decreases in cholesterol, hypertension and depression.4 Here are a few aerobic exercises you can do at home:
- Garden, mow or rake your lawn
- Sweep your floors
- March or jog in place
- If you have one, walk on your treadmill or ride a stationary bike
- If you don’t have a treadmill, then just walk around your home at a consistent pace
Start slowly; you don’t need to sprint right out of the gate. Make sure you find the duration and exercises that work best for you. If you feel any discomfort (like chest pain or dizziness), then slow down to a more relaxed rate.
Improving your balance can be a great way to deter dangerous falls. As we have discussed elsewhere on Staying Put at Home, senior falls can often lead to hip fractures and long stays in hospitals and nursing homes. Try out some of these exercises so that your balance remains steady:
- Walk heel to toe in a straight line, then repeat for 20 steps.
- Stand on one foot behind a chair, using the chair for balance. Then, hold for ten seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Stand behind a chair, using it for balance. Then, lift up one leg behind you without bending your knee. Hold this position for a few seconds and breathe out as you lower your leg.
- While sitting down, have both feet planted on the ground. Extend one leg in front of you as straight as possible, without locking your knee. Then, point your toes toward the ceiling and hold for one second. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg back down.
- While sitting down, extend your right knee and move your foot in a circle 20 times. Then, repeat with the other foot.
When exercising, avoid wearing clothes that restrict you or that are overly baggy, as these could be trip hazards.
The deep muscles of your stomach and lower back are commonly referred to as your “core muscles.” Strengthening your core can reduce your risk of falls by improving balance and coordination. Research has shown that a strong core can increase strength by 30% and balance by 23% in seniors.5 Here are a few core exercises you can do at home.
Some of these exercises require you to lie down on the floor. Make sure you have a way to stand up, like balancing yourself on sturdy furniture or having a partner nearby.
Seated Side Bends:
- Sit up straight and remain seated throughout
- Draw your belly button toward your spine
- Curl your upper chest and spine toward your right side
- After a couple seconds, uncurl
- Repeat exercise on your left side
Elbow to Knee:
- Sit up straight on the edge of your chair
- Raise your right hand up toward the ceiling
- Raise your left knee and bend your elbow to bring your right arm down
- Touch your left knee with your right elbow
- Return to starting position
- After 8 to 10 repetitions, repeat the exercise using your left arm and your right knee
- Sit upright in a chair
- Bring your hands behind your head with your elbows out
- Stretch your right elbow toward your right hip
- Bring your right elbow back up
- After 8 to 10 repetitions, repeat the exercise on your left side
- Lie flat on your back with your legs flat
- Contract your abdominal muscles and raise one leg five inches off the ground
- Count to three and lower your leg
- Repeat with the other leg
- Lie on your back and keep your shoulders on the floor throughout
- Bend your knees
- Tilt your knees to your left as far as you can
- Hold this for as long as you feel comfortable
- Return to your starting position and repeat with your right side
- Start in the “up” part of a push-up
- Keep your back flat
- Hold this position for 30 seconds
- Lie on your back
- Pedal your legs like you are riding a bicycle
- Continue this for 30 seconds
Getting Up Off the Floor
While we have provided a bit of advice above about getting off the floor, we realize that you can often find yourself in a situation where assistance is not close at hand. If you are having a hard time standing up, follow these steps:
- Take a moment to relax and compose yourself. Make sure you are not injured, lightheaded or otherwise unable to stand.
- If you are not hurt, then roll onto your side.
- After you are comfortable on your side, slowly get on your hands and knees.
- Crawl toward the nearest chair or piece of furniture.
- Make sure it is stable enough to use as support.
- Put your hands on the seat or the flat surface. Slide one foot forward so that it is flat on the floor. Keep the knee of your other leg bent so that your leg lies flat on the ground.
- Slowly rise up and turn so that you can sit down in the chair.
If you are unable to complete these steps because you are hurt, then try to find a phone and call for help.
Remember, if you have trouble breathing, have chest pain or experience dizziness, then take a break and consult a medical professional. Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise routine. Ask your doctor if there are any exercises you should avoid based on your medical history. If you have any advice or suggestions, please share in our comment section.