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5 ways seniors can stay safe and active during COVID-19

(BPT) - By now, most seniors are aware that they’re among the most vulnerable demographic groups when it comes to contracting COVID-19.

That said, a recent nationwide poll by Tivity Health®, a national provider of senior fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle solutions, including SilverSneakers®, the nation's leading community fitness program designed for older adults, indicates many are probably not getting the exercise they need to maintain optimal health.

In the poll, 46% of adult and senior respondents said the pandemic is preventing them from attending in-person exercise classes at local gyms, although 84% noted they’ll return within a month once attendance is deemed safe by authorities.

A core challenge is reduced gym access, as quarantines prove problematic for many older Americans trying to continue exercise regimens. Exercise remains critical for seniors to maintain a healthy immune system that’s able to fight off disease. Regular workouts can also increase balance and strength and help prevent falls.

For seniors, falls are an all too common threat and crisis; Johns Hopkins University reports that 25% of adults 65 or older fall, and three million are treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries caused by falls.

“This pandemic has brought great challenges and stress for seniors. But the good news is, there are ways to exercise safely and maintain an active lifestyle,” says Tivity Health president and CEO Richard Ashworth. “Exercise is vital for maintaining optimal health, and through easy-to-access digital and in-person options, it is our hope seniors can continue or renew exercise regimens quickly and safely.”

Maintaining regular exercise during COVID-19 need not be difficult. If you’re a senior wanting to maintain effective workouts each day, here are some tips you can follow even if you’re practicing social isolation.

Start slowly. If you haven’t been exercising, you’ll want to ease into your new routine gradually. Studies indicate just two weeks of inactivity (or a 75% reduction in daily steps) can decrease your muscle strength by 8%, while dropping 1,000 to 1,500 steps each day can both raise both inflammation and blood pressure. You should jump-start your new regimen with safe exercises like squats, wall push-ups, light weightlifting regimens and taking walks (keeping distance from others for safety).

Subscribe to a digital exercise program. You do not need to leave your home to exercise each day. That’s especially true if you sign up for a high-quality digital regimen that fits well with your exercise goals and preferences.

In fact, 56% of seniors responding to the Tivity Health poll said their future workout plans call for participating in online classes two to three times per week. You may find SilverSneakers’ LIVE classes are your perfect option; the instructor-led online exercise sessions are being offered to all SilverSneakers members. In addition, free Facebook Live classes led by SilverSneakers national trainers are broadcast multiple times a week. The national fitness membership organization designed the virtual series to help seniors stay in shape while still following precautions during the pandemic.

Avoid prolonged sitting. Even if you must set a timer to remind yourself, take frequent breaks from sitting and engage in rejuvenating strolls — or simply take part in activities that involve standing. The point is to avoid being sedentary for long intervals of time.

Use others as motivation. In the Tivity Health poll, 44% of responding seniors said they’re motivated to return to their fitness centers to see and socialize with friends. If you feel more motivated when not exercising all by yourself, you might optimize FaceTime, Zoom or even a quick phone call to interact with fitness-minded others as you work out at home.

Check out local fitness centers. Before attending local gyms, learn what they’re doing to keep their customers safe and to align with recommended CDC guidelines. If you feel safe enough to participate, exercise in open spaces where you can maintain six feet of distance from others. You might also check out low-intensity options such as water exercise classes, yoga or Tai Chi.

Whether you’re staying at home or practicing safe social distancing while out and about, there’s no need to give up the exercise that can help you maintain optimal health during the pandemic. Take steps now to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself through age-appropriate workouts and movement.

To check your eligibility and find a health plan that includes SilverSneakers, visit silversneakers.com.