The extreme heat in summer and frigid temps in winter can make it challenging to find and stick to a fitness routine. This is truest for seniors, especially right now, who might feel nervous about exercising inside, even with social distancing in place, yet are as wary of braving the elements. We asked Adrienne Lopez, a fitness programmer at Dulles South Recreation and Community Center, for advice on safely exercising this time of year:
What should seniors wear when exercising outside?
“Dress in layers–research has proven that three layers of clothing is the best. The first layer should be Dri-wick material to keep sweat off the body. We sweat even when it’s chilly outside because as the heart rate goes up so does the body temperature. The second layer should be to keep warm, so think sweatshirts, sweaters, warm pants, hats and gloves. The third layer should be for protection, like a warm coat or raincoat. All exercise clothing should be fitted, as bulky clothes limit range of motion. I also recommend wearing reflective gear. Choose athletic shoes that are appropriate for the exercise, whether that’s walking, running or hiking. The perfect shoe will help with balance and protect the feet, which is especially a priority for those with diabetes, neuropathy or any chronic condition that makes it difficult for them to know when they have injured their feet. It’s important to keep the feet healthy as they are the first point of contact.”
What should seniors bring along when they are exercising outside?
“Bring plenty of water, as it’s just as important to stay hydrated in cold weather as it is in hot weather. If they plan to exercise early morning or in the evenings, bring a flashlight. Most importantly, seniors should carry Identification and emergency contact information; it’s best if they let someone know where they are going and approximately when they will return. Carry a cell phone, but don’t be distracted and use it while exercising. If they wear headphones for music, keep the volume at a level that still allows them to hear outside noises like traffic.”
What about mask considerations?
“Seniors should wear a mask anytime they cannot appropriately social distance. I recommend a very lightweight mask with a face bracket underneath, which will keep the mask from getting sucked in as respirations increase.”
What tips do you have for seniors looking to work out safely at a gym? What precautions should you look for in facilities?
“Select a facility that meets or exceeds social distancing guidelines. Take advantage of any free orientations and assessments that are available to new and existing members, which will guide them and show ways to exercise safely and effectively while making them feel more comfortable in the facility and with the staff. Most facilities have a very strict disinfecting protocol in place, but it’s always a good idea to wipe equipment down before using it. I also recommend bringing your own yoga mat.
Choose classes that can be modified to fit any level of ability. The best ones focus on range of motion, joint friendly exercises, and balance–water classes are always a great place to start. Work out more with shorter sessions to help avoid soreness. Small group training specifically designed for seniors is available in many fitness facilities and is an excellent option for individualized training at an affordable price. Group fitness and small group training are a safe and positive way to be able to socialize.
At the Dulles South Recreation and Community Center, we offer 55+ small group, socially-distanced training for three to six individuals with a trainer. Our group exercise schedule has an aquatic class every weekday and it can be modified to meet any level of ability. We also offer Gentle Yoga which is perfect for seniors to work on balance and mindfulness.”
How about ideas and best practices for virtual workouts?
“Even though they may be working out at home, they should wear appropriate fitness clothing and athletic shoes to workout in. Choose a virtual workout that’s fun and challenging but doesn’t exceed their abilities. Select a safe area free from tripping hazards with a level floor; for dance workouts, or any workout with travel, a floor without carpet is the best option. Choose workouts from a reputable source such as the National Institute on Aging and the Arthritis Foundation. For seniors that may not have the technical experience to use online formats such as zoom of Facebook, there are many great DVDs available to purchase, and often the public access channels will offer these types of programs on regular TV.”
[Fairfax County’s Virtual Center for Active Adults offers Zoom classes via Fit & FAB (Flexible, Active, Balance), which includes things like Gentle Yoga and Intermediate Tai Chi.]
How can seniors get a good workout at home, especially if they don’t have space or budget for expensive equipment?
“There are many great options for workouts that don’t require any equipment as well as ways to use household items as gym equipment. Water bottles can be used for light resistance, broomstick handles can be used to help with balance, and bath towels or pantyhose can be used for stretching. Many workouts can be done entirely while seated in a chair which is perfect for those with limited space and/or balance issues. Seated workouts include warm up exercises like shoulder circles, resistance training like bicep curls, cardio such as seated jumping jacks, ab twists for core, ankle rotations for range of motion, and a sit and reach for cool down stretching.”
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