For older people at home during the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the exercise options they enjoyed in the past may no longer be available. Fortunately, technology can help you find ways to keep fit while also social distancing, allowing you to get the recommended amounts of exercise needed for physical and cognitive health.
To best use technology to keep fit during social distancing, it’s important to understand what you are trying to achieve. Physical fitness is not only important to the body, but also the mind. The World Health Organization (WHO) writes that daily exercise not only improves cardiorespiratory, muscular fitness, bone and functional health, but also reduces the risk of depression and cognitive decline.
The WHO recommends that older adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. They also recommend that seniors perform aerobic activities for at least 10 minutes at a time. For additional health benefits, WHO recommends increasing moderate aerobic exercise to 300 minutes a week or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Those numbers provide a good target for older adults who want to stay fit, both physically and mentally. During the coronavirus outbreak, the key is finding a way to get those minutes of exercise while staying safe. That’s where technology can provide for improving fitness and boosting cognitive function.
All the options are in addition to more “analog” ways to exercise. This includes talking a walk (while maintaining social distancing), gardening and dancing. Each provides an aerobic workout or strength training. It’s also good to remember that you get exercise simply by moving around, including doing household chores or working on a hobby such as an art project.
Video Conferencing Platforms
Seniors can find a wide variety of exercise classes available on online video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Chances are if you visit the website or social media account of your local fitness center, they will have migrated classes to Zoom or a similar online platform. The biggest benefit is that you get to work out together with others during live, streaming classes. For those who don’t mind doing a workout asynchronously, workout videos for seniors are available on YouTube, including this one from the National Institute on Aging.
Some companies have moved exercise videos to Facebook, where you can work out along with instructors as they are streamed live. For example, Move it or Lose it out of Birmingham, England, provides videos every day that include live aerobic workouts, fitness advice and ideas for exercise at home. All the content is focused on older people staying at home during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yoga can increase flexibility, strengthen muscles and provide stress relief. Many smartphone apps allow you to get the benefits of yoga in your own living room. Some of the most popular include Glo and Pocket Yoga, which is especially good for beginners.
Other popular fitness apps for seniors include Map My Walk, which does exactly what the name describes as well as helps you set distance goals. It also works with hiking, cycling and hundreds of other sports and activities. It’s free, as is the Silver Sneakers Go app that offers four to 12-week programs for strength, walking, flexibility and mobility training.
Exercise Your Mind
Numerous smartphone apps also help to improve brain health. They include apps that help improve function in areas such as attention, navigational skills, speed of thought, memory and problem solving. One of the oldest and most popular is Lumosity, which includes 25 timed “brain games” and performance metrics to help you define your cognitive strengths and weaknesses.
Another good one is Brain HQ, designed by a team of scientists, this online brain training platform is designed by a team of neuro scientists. It uses an algorithm to adapt the difficulty level of exercises so that you train the brain at an ideal level for you and in a way that will be most likely to help you make cognitive improvements. Users have the ability to set up brain training goals, while the app can take care of reminders and progress tracking to help you hit your targets. The 29 built in exercises will help you work on attention, navigational skills, speed of thought, memory, problem solving and sociability.