This is the most suitable physical exercise for older people during confinement

By Paola Gonzalo Encabo, University of Alcalá and Carmen Ferragut Fiol, University of Alcalá

The recent appearance of the pandemic of COVID-19 has resulted in the confinement of the population in their homes, suddenly altering our habits and routines. This new situation that we are facing can cause mental health problems (stress, depression, anxiety …), and other derivatives of the lack of physical exercise.

The population most vulnerable to this pandemic is the elderly, especially those with previous pathologies who, if they contract the disease, have a greater probability of presenting more severe symptoms. For this segment of the population, physical exercise is not only recommended, it is necessary.

Helps to be self-sufficient

Keep in mind that the continuous practice of exercise improves mobility, cardiopulmonary health and maintains their quality of life, that is, it improves functionality and prevents fragility in this population, making it possible for them to be self-sufficient in the daily aspects of life.

Older adults can always benefit from physical exercise, and many of them already did it through training groups in various types of sports facilities. The problem comes now, when we cannot leave the house, or in that older population that already had mobility problems before and was having trouble leaving. All of them can be benefited by the practice of exercise.

This will cause benefits at the muscular level, since it will increase strength and allow daily activities to be carried out more easily, such as going up and down stairs, sitting down and getting up, which will make the level of autonomy increase or, at least, remain stable longer . Furthermore, we can see the opportunity to "hook" those who were not aware of the importance of physical exercise.

Family exercises

On the other hand, in those cases where there has been a joint confinement between generations, grandparents, children and grandchildren, this is an opportunity to exercise with them and spend more time sharing an activity together.

In the design of physical exercise programs, it is necessary to know the starting level, in order to correctly adjust the type of exercises to be performed, as well as the workload. That is, we need to know what physical conditions we are in to be able to do exercises that are intense enough to improve health, but not so hard as to cause subsequent injuries or problems.

An app created by researchers

We recommend the use of the Vivifrail application to those who have a mobile phone with Internet access: it is a free application made by Spanish researchers. It evaluates the state of fitness of the older adult and then offers them a daily training program based on their initial level. It is very simple to use and, in addition, all the necessary materials are available on its website.

On the other hand, for those who do not have access to the Internet or mobiles, we have included an annex with a training program for the elderly to do at home depending on their level. All exercises can be done without material or using rice packages, water bottles or any other object that we can think of as weights.

Exercises table

Previous notices:

The repetitions are indicative, we must do as many as possible (which requires an effort of level 5-6 out of 10). We do not seek that these exercises cause us great fatigue, but that we are better tomorrow than today. As the days go by, we will see that we will be able to do more repetitions of each exercise or that perhaps we are ready to go to level 2.

In this unsupervised work, it is important that we work under the premise that no exercise causes pain so that we are not at risk of injury.

Level 1. Older adult with mobility difficulties.

We will perform between 8 and 15 repetitions of each exercise (depending on your possibilities). At the end of an exercise we will go to the next and we will make 2 or 3 laps of the circuit.

Quadriceps flexo-extension. Sitting, with both legs on the floor, extend one of the legs and return to the starting position. When performing the indicated repetitions, change legs.

Biceps. Sitting, holding an object of about 1 kg (water bottle, rice packet, etc.), flex and extend your arm, with your elbow as a fixed point. Then change arms.

Lateral inclinations. Sitting, with your back straight, lean sideways, brushing the outer part of your legs with your hands, without forcing, as far as you can.

Circle each leg clockwise. While seated, slightly raise one of your legs while the other is supported and make circles clockwise. Then change legs.

Wring out a towel. Sitting, with both hands, I wrung a towel as if I wanted to wring it out. From right to left and then vice versa.

Get up and sit in a chair with the help of a family member. With the support of a relative's arms, you will get up and sit in a chair.

Note: This exercise may produce more fatigue than the previous ones, so depending on your possibilities, perform more or less repetitions of it.

Open your arms and hug. Sitting, open and close your arms as if you wanted to hug yourself.

It is important to keep pace with the exercises that are performed. As a tip, release the air in the part of the movement where you exert the most effort.

Finish with mobility and stretching, such as stretching with arms up and stretching of legs by leaning forward.

Level 2. Autonomous older adult.

We will perform between 8 and 15 repetitions of each exercise (depending on your possibilities). At the end of an exercise we will go to the next and we will make 2 or 3 laps of the circuit.

Get up and sit in the chair. Unaided or lightly holding onto a table.

Note: Safety is important when doing this exercise. We must lean the chair against the wall to avoid possible falls.

Wall push-ups. Standing, resting both hands on the wall, we will simulate a flexion. To do this we will flex and extend our arms. The further we move away from the wall, the more difficult it is.

Note: In this exercise it is important to keep the neck relaxed and the back straight.

Hip extension. Standing, holding onto a chair or table, you will extend your leg back. Then do the repetitions with the other leg.

Note: Do not arch your back.

Rowing. Standing slightly bent and supporting the hand that does not work on a table. Grasp an object with your other hand (water bottle, kilo of rice, etc.) and pull the object upwards, bringing your arm as close to your body as possible, raising your elbow.

Gluteal bridge. Lying on your back, with both feet resting on the ground, detach yourself from the ground, raising our hips and then return to this position.

Eye: You should not feel pain in the lumbar, if you feel pain, it may be that your feet are far away.

Front elevations. Standing, with one object in each hand, arms extended across the body, raise the arms outstretched without reaching shoulder height.

Eye: It is important to have a relaxed neck throughout the movement.

Walk in the hallway of the house back and forth. To increase the level of coordination, instead of walking in a straight line, you can put objects such as rolls of paper on the floor and avoid them.

It is important to keep pace with the exercises that are performed. As a tip, release the air in the part of the movement where you exert the most effort.

Finish with mobility and stretching, such as stretching your arms up and stretching your legs by leaning forward.

Finally, we want to add that physical exercise in this population should be individually programmed and supervised by a professional from the sports sciences. However, in this confined situation it is vitally important to stay active, working under the premise that none of the exercises you perform should produce pain or risk of injury.

Paola Gonzalo Encabo, Research Group on Sports Management and Training, University of Alcalá, University of Alcalá and Carmen Ferragut Fiol, Research Group on Management and Sports Training, University of Alcalá

This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.