Exercises for Seniors to Stay Active During “Social Distancing”

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted our lives and forced us to change our habits, including hindering most group fitness activities. Whether you like to do your own thing outside, take a class, or work one-on-one with a personal trainer, you might be feeling a little lost when it comes to staying active in your own home.

Exercising is important to our health in a variety of ways. It can improve strength, improve balance, give you more energy, prevent or delay disease, improve mood, and improve cognitive function. As long as your doctor says it’s safe for you to exercise, you should workout to improve the quality and increase the longevity of your life.

It may be daunting to start an exercise program at home, so we’ve broken down some exercises you can do with just one piece of equipment: a chair.

(Remember during this time that it’s important to keep your body moving and also to keep yourself safe, but never attempt an exercise routine without confirming with your doctor that it’s safe to do so. These chair exercises are a great way to strengthen your muscles and get your heart rate up in this time of “social distancing.”)

 

  1. Calf Raises

There are two ways to complete this exercise. First, you can sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart. Make sure you’re looking straight ahead and engage your core. Start with your right foot and lift your heel as high as you can and raise up on your toes as high as you can. Complete ten reps on each side for three sets.

Another way to complete calf raises is to stand behind the chair and hold onto it for balance. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Complete the same movement of putting your weight on your toes and lifting your heels as high as you can, but this time, do it on both legs at the same time. Complete ten reps for three sets.

 

  1. Modified Push-Ups

Push-ups are an effective upper body exercise because they work so many muscles. By using a chair, you can decrease the difficulty of the exercise, decrease the impact on your joints avoid getting all the way down on the ground.

To perform this move, place the chair so that the seat is up against a wall to make sure that it’s not going to move while you complete the exercise. Stand behind the chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. You want to stand far enough away that you can extend your arms but close enough to feel comfortable and stable. Engage your core and keep your body as straight as possible. Slowly bend your elbows and lean your body forward to complete a push-up. Complete ten reps for three sets.

 

  1. Modified Planks

Planks are one of the best exercises to work your core. To complete it on the chair, start in the same position as the push-up. The seat of the chair should be against the wall, and you should stand behind the chair with your hands holding onto the top of the chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a step back so your body is at a slight angle. Make sure your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold the position for 10 to 60 seconds – however long you feel comfortable, and then return to standing. Complete three sets.

 

  1. Modified Squats

Squats are an effective lower body exercise that work your quads, glutes, and core. Stand behind the chair with your hands holding onto the top of your chair. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Gently lower yourself down and imagine that you are sitting into a chair. The movement should be almost identical, but you can go however low you feel comfortable. Hold onto the chair for balance. Complete ten reps for three sets.

 

  1. Seated Leg Lifts

Seated leg lifts are a great exercise for your core and your legs. Sit at the edge of the chair with your back straight. Start with your legs shoulder-width apart extended in front of you with just your heels on the ground. Hold onto the chair for balance, and slowly lift your right leg up as high as you can without moving your torso. Hold it at the top for a second and then slowly lower your right leg back to the starting position. Then complete the move with your left leg. Complete ten reps on each side for three sets.

 

  1. Seated Shoulder Press

If you have a pair of light dumbbells, you can use those. You can also use objects you might find around your house, such as cans of soup or bottles of water – just make sure the two items you choose are identical in weight. You can also complete this exercise without weights. Start in seated position with your back straight, with elbows out to the side of your body. Your elbows should start below your shoulders with your wrist directly above your elbows. Your palms should be facing forward. Slowly extend your arms above your head as high as you can. At the top of the movement, they should be fully extended, but don’t lock your elbows. Slowly bring your elbows down keeping your elbows out. Complete ten reps for three sets.

 

 

Concussion 101

A Q&A session with Nicole Somers, PT, DPT

Did you know?

  • A concussion is a type of brain injury.
  • Imaging, such as MRI and CT scans, are not able to diagnose a concussion.
  • Most concussions (90%) are not associated with a loss of consciousness.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury or mTBI. It occurs as a result of a direct blow to the head or a blow elsewhere to the body where the force is transmitted up through the head (think about whiplash and how the brain is bouncing around inside the skull). Loss of consciousness does not always occur. In fact, most people who have a concussion do not lose consciousness.

So, what really happens?

The impact on the brain causes the brain cells to stretch and become damaged. The damage to the brain cells causes them to release neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals of the brain that allows it to function normally. The imbalance of these chemicals causes the brain to have to work harder and requires more energy, resulting in an “energy crisis” within the brain.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Signs and symptoms of a concussion can occur immediately or hours to days following the injury and include¹:

  • Emotional: anger, sadness, nervous or anxious, irritability
  • Mental: confusion, feeling foggy, poor memory, poor concentration
  • Physical: headache/migraine, clumsiness, dizziness or loss of balance, nausea or vomiting, fuzzy or blurry vision, sensitivity to noise or light
  • Sleep: feeling tired, trouble falling asleep, trouble staying awake, too much or too little sleep

What is the recovery time?

A typical concussion will fully resolve in less than 3 weeks with minimal intervention, with significant improvement in the first 7-10 days. In about 20% of concussed people, a concussion takes greater than 4 weeks to resolve. A second concussion before fully recovering from the initial injury can have detrimental effects, including prolonged recovery, permanent brain damage, and even death.

How can physical therapy help?²

Physical therapists are part of the multidisciplinary team capable of helping people return to their normal activities and lifestyles after a concussion. Physical therapists will complete a comprehensive assessment and are highly qualified to address:

  • Orthopedic issues and pain from the injury
  • Balance, dizziness, and vestibular/vertigo problems
  • Visual and ocular motor problems

___________________________

¹ “Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Mar. 2019, www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/symptoms.html.

² Mucha, Anne, and Susan Whitney. 4 May 2020., MedBridge Education. https://www.medbridgeeducation.com/certificate_programs/11026-concussion-assessment-medical-management.

 

Constipation Trouble?

By: Kennan Wyne, PT, DPT

Everyone has had constipation at some point or another and it is uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing.  Chronic constipation and/or straining can lead to excessive stress on pelvic organs and nerves.  This may contribute to bladder dysfunction, pelvic floor dysfunction, and/or prolapse (bulging of structures occurring commonly due to weakened supportive structures).  Constipation is defined as infrequent (fewer than 3) bowel movements per week.  Normal stools should be about the size, shape, and consistency of a ripe banana.*

Listed below are tips to keep your colon happy.

Tip #1: Avoid regular use of laxatives and enemas.

Tip #2: Discuss fiber needs with physician/pharmacist/nutritionist. Typical recommendations for fiber intake are 25-35 grams per day. If adding fiber to diet remember to DRINK 6-8 cups of WATER to move stool through the colon. You may experience a bloating feeling and/or gas when adding fiber to your diet, but this should pass in a few weeks.  This may be eased by adding fiber SLOWLY to your diet.

    • Examples of high fiber foods are bran, shredded wheat, whole grain bread, and whole fresh fruits with skin (apples, raw veggies).

Tip #3: Proper positioning: Position yourself on the toilet to allow for maximal relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles by using a Squatty Potty or stool to obtain maximal knee and hip flexion (similar to a squat position) and leaning forward and supporting elbows on knees. NO STRAINING OR HOVERING as this increases intraabdominal pressure and pressure on the pelvic floor.

Tip #4: Regular exercise helps stimulate a sluggish bowel.

 

*Any persistent change in bowel habits, such as increase or decrease in frequency, size of the stool, blood in the stool, or an increased difficulty in evacuating, warrants a medical consultation.

Is Working From Home Becoming a Pain In Your Neck (shoulders, wrists and hands too)?

By: Kara Everett, DPT, CSCS, CKTP, and LSVT BIG Certified

COVID-19 has caused a lot of changes in all of our everyday lives and routines.   You may even find yourself in a new working environment – your own home! Working from home has most likely presented new challenges. No desk at home may mean working from your couch or kitchen table.  You may notice your back hurts.   Come to think of it, you have been noticing your neck, shoulder, wrist, and hand all hurt – what is wrong?!?  Luckily for you, Carousel is here to help! We’ve got tips to improve your at-home make-shift “work” stations to avoid new injuries (no Workman’s Comp at home ladies and gents! 😊).

Table Manners: If you do not already have a desk at home, sitting at your kitchen table may be your best bet to set up shop. Elevate your laptop to eye level by placing books or boxes under the computer. Place your mouse close enough so that your arm can rest on the table and you do not have to hold arm outstretched to reach the mouse. This will prevent increased stress to your shoulder and neck.  Sit in a chair that has a tall back or use pillows behind you to support lower and upper back. Place a box to support your feet if you cannot reach the floor.

Deep Couch Sitting: Although not the most ideal place to work but let’s be real, we know at times you will be working from your couch. When doing so, make sure that your computer is elevated to eye level by placing pillows under your lap (be sure to put a book on top of pillow to prevent computer from overheating and allow good airflow through computer vents). This will prevent you from looking down excessively and increasing chances of neck pain. You can also use pillows for lumbar (back) support or between your shoulder blades to prevent slouching and forward head posture that may cause neck and/or back pain.

Don’t Squint:  Another tidbit is if you typically wear glasses to read be sure to use when working at the computer. If you have difficulty seeing your screen this will cause squinting and moving your head forward to see the screen better. This forward head posture can increase your likelihood of neck and shoulder pain.

Stretch it Out: Finally, our bodies are made to move so staying in one position for too long can increase pain in any part of our body. Yes, every 30-minutes get up and change position. Rotate your trunk side to side, side bend trunk to one side while reaching overhead with other hand, lean backwards with hands on hips, turn head left and right, and side bend head left and right (bring ear to shoulder on each side).

Working from home should be all about productivity, not pain! Stay healthy and be well, we are all in this together!