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Tips for remaining active and well while following CDC guidelines

Amy Riggins

Greetings Shawnee! I sincerely hope this finds you safe and well, even if it does find you spending more time at home. There have been so many changes to our world, and we are trying to get used to a new, temporary “normal.” It is necessary for us to make sacrifices now, so we can look forward to a healthy future.

Are you following the CDC guidelines to protect yourself and your loved ones? Washing hands with soap and warm water, covering coughs and sneezes, practicing social distancing of 6 feet, avoiding contact with others who are sick or may have been exposed, and staying safe at home? I hope you are making wise and healthy choices such as these, which the CDC recommends to help lower the risk of exposing yourself or others to COVID-19.

With so many of us spending the vast majority of our time in our households, I wanted to share tips for remaining active and well. I’ve gleaned information from both the American Council of Exercise and the National Council on Aging, with the following recommendations seniors can take to stay healthy:

“Sit Less, Move More” Yes, we are probably watching a lot more television these days and sitting while doing things like reading or crafts. Be aware of how much you are sitting, and remind yourself to get up and stand or move around the house. For example, stand up during commercials, or set the timer to stand up every 20 minutes or so. Dust off that piece of exercise equipment which you may not have used in a while, and give it a whirl.

“Move Your Way” As you are doing things around the house, such as cleaning, repairs, or other housework, build in some extra walking in between chores. Whatever feels good to you as you move, do more of that. Do you like to dance, or just sway to the music? Put on your favorite CD or vinyl record and get moving!

“Make Your Laps Count” If you are able to walk, come up with creative paths inside your house. Plan a modified figure 8 route that allows you to turn in different directions, rather than just going in circles. If you don’t have much space, try marching in place. Do you have a safe, level place to walk outside your home? Add in a trip down the sidewalk or around your back yard if the weather is good.

“Stretch a Little” Staying flexible is important, and we can stretch a little each day to keep our joints moving. Stretch slowly and avoid bouncing. Remember to stretch different joints and all your limbs as you are able. Only stretch to a point of mild tension, not pain, and hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds to maximize the flexibility gains. Keep breathing as your stretch, as this helps with lowering stress and tension.

“Breathe Deep” Speaking of breathing, just taking several deep breaths and slowly exhaling will enhance your circulation and hormones. In addition, it helps lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Taking time to practice deep breathing can also improve your overall mood and mental focus.

“Practice Balance” Maintaining balance is important for all of us, but especially as we age. Practicing balance can help strengthen lower body and torso muscles, which in turn will help avoid falls. Stand next to a solid chair or counter top, with it to your side about 6-10 inches away. Hold on with your hand to steady yourself. Stand up straight, but with a slight bend in your knees. Then slowly raise your outside foot behind you, bending that knee a little more. See if you can balance on one foot for a few seconds, then switch sides. As your practice this simple exercise, you will be able to slowly add more time to your One-Leg Stands.

“Strengthen Your Legs” The ability to stand up out of a chair and also lower yourself safely into a chair can help you maintain your independence and actually live longer. Chair Stands are a great way to build and maintain strength in your lower body, which will help you perform many activities of daily living. To safely perform a Chair Stand, select a firm, solid chair such as a dining room chair. From a seated position, slide forward in the chair a little, so you can keep your weight over your feet as you start to stand up. See if you can stand up slowly while keeping your balance. Then sit back down in the chair. Your goal is to be able to complete a Chair Stand without using your hands, but you might have to build up to that. Remember to go slow and try just a few at a time, but stop doing these if you become dizzy.

“Strengthen Your Arms” We also need to maintain strength in our upper bodies. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways around the house, such as pushing against a wall or door frame, or pushing down on a chair back while standing behind it. These types of isometric contractions can strengthen your muscles, but remember to breathe as you push. If you don’t have any hand weights to do active exercises, you could also use canned goods to perform some simple moves, such as Arm Curls, Wrist Curls, Shoulder Presses, or Butterflies. If you are not familiar with these exercise names, just move your arms and shoulders in slow normal movements you might do in everyday life.

“Eat and Drink Well” It would be easy to turn to only junk food or comfort foods during times like these. Try to still make healthy eating choices as you are able. Balanced nutrition includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats such as nuts and fish. Remember to drink lots of water and other healthy fluids.

To stay healthy at home, we also need to keep our minds active, as well as still engage socially and spiritually. Perhaps you can take time to learn something new, such as a craft, language, or even history about an interesting topic. Even if you cannot visit a new destination now, you can still learn about it or look at pictures. Try working on a puzzle, as this stimulates your brain in different ways.

Take opportunities to reach out to friends, family, neighbors, or church members. Try calling someone each day or writing a letter. If you do have access to devices which utilize technology, ask someone to help you learn how to watch videos, listen to a podcast, or stream a program. Many organizations and churches are making online activities available on the Internet, if you are able to watch or participate. Even if you don’t have access, perhaps one of your loved ones could tell you about it over the phone.

Here’s a tip you may not have thought about: “Go on a News Diet.” I’ve found myself watching more news in a day than I’ve watched in a week or month previously! While we do need to stay up with the latest information and happenings in the world, watching news all day is probably not good for our mental well-being. Set a time limit on how much you decide to watch or listen to the local and national news, and see if that helps your overall mood.

Lastly, these times can bring about uncertainty and fear. But remember you still can choose how you respond. I have heard many individuals talking about spiritual things these days, including what happens after death. As a Christian, I personally believe you can have hope, the hope offered by Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life to all who accept it. It is a gift of grace, as there isn’t anything we can do to earn it. I am not perfect by any means, but because I know God has forgiven me for my sins, I can trust Him to give me peace. For more information about hope and peace during this coronavirus pandemic, a toll free 24/7 Prayer Line has been set up by Samaritan’s Purse at 1-888-388-2683. If you have questions or need prayer, feel free to give them a call.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has set up a toll free 24/7 informational call center for anyone with questions or concerns regarding COVID-19, at 1-877-215-8336. This dedicated phone line offers information, resources, a symptom checker, and local references. It is operated by public health nurses, and you can speak with a live professional after calling in and making a few selections.

I hope these tips might help you as you face each day, one day at a time. As many have said, we can get through these times together! We miss seeing you at the Senior Center and the Community Center, and we look forward to reopening when it is safe to do so.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and be healthy!