Last month, 25% of Americans (one in four) were being told to stay home. This month, a staggering 95% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders,1 creating the social distancing needed to reduce the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Because of these stay-at-home orders, all Americans are finding new ways to stay active while social-distancing and staying home. To reduce community-acquired COVID-19, many people have taken advantage of home deliveries from grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. Because we’re spending more time staying at home, people are becoming more sedentary due to decreased mobility and activity. People are sitting more than usual, and this may be true for you.
Friends, sitting too much can be hazardous to your life. Prolonged sedentary behavior—whether sitting or reclining—throughout the day increases your risk of poor health, declining physical function, obesity, and muscle weakness.2 Many older adults report aches and pains from too much sedentary behavior—from neck pain caused by falling asleep in the chair to knee pain and stiffness due to limited mobility. Older adults may also experience swelling of their legs, ankles, and feet.
Your Harmony Team is dedicated to maximizing your independence and function and wants to help you reduce or break up periods of excessive sitting so you can maintain your strength and health.
Last month, I introduced you to Harmony’s Educational Exercise Videos. I hope you started performing some of these exercises. This month, I’m introducing you to lower extremity exercises that you can complete while sitting in your chair. These exercises will keep you alert and active while improving your strength and activity level. I have three exercise that are commonly recommended to older adults while sitting in a chair: Straight Leg Raises, Ankle Pumps and Circles, and Seated Knee Raise Exercises. These three exercises help strengthen your muscles to safely get up and down from your furniture. As with any exercise program, it’s important to set up a routine of muscle-strengthening exercises, repetitions for strengthening, and slow progressive increases in your routine.
So, let’s begin:
Straight Leg Raises. Straight leg raises increase the tone and strength of your abdominal and leg muscles. They can be performed sitting on the floor, an exercise table, or a chair. I’m hoping you’ll practice this exercise while sitting in the chair watching TV.
You start by sitting near the edge of your chair, feet on the floor, hands on each side of the chair seat. With your upper body nice and tall, straighten one leg, bring your toes back, then lift your leg until it’s parallel to the floor, as demonstrated in the picture below:
from Lower-Body Chair Workout | WW USA weightwatchers.com
Tighten your muscles, hold your leg in this raised position, and then lower your straightened leg to the floor. Repeat these steps with the same leg 5 to 10 times—whatever’s comfortable for you. Next, switch legs and repeat the exercise. These are very easy to do and will keep you active and awake. If needed, you can also follow these demonstrated exercises here:
Ankle Pumps and Circles. Ankle pump exercises require that you move each foot up and down, pushing your foot down away from you as much as you can and then pulling your foot back toward you, referred to as extension and flexion. These actions in repetition result in a pumping method, or ankle pump, to strengthen your calf muscle. Each push-and-pull motion is referred to as an ankle pump. Ankle circle exercises are performed by making circles with your foot—circle to the left, then alternate the circle movement to the right. Refer to the following pictures, which demonstrate these ankle exercises:
As with any exercise program, complete a series of repetitions—between 5 and 10 to start—and then rest. You can complete ankle pumps followed by ankle circles on the same foot and then switch to the other foot, or you can perform ankle pumps on each foot, then switch to ankle circle exercises. It’s your choice—mix them up! These exercises flex your calf muscle to pump blood to your heart through muscle contraction. They’re also great for relieving ankle swelling/edema, strengthening your muscles, and improving your flexibility and balance.3 You’ll feel your muscles getting stronger!
Seated Knee Raise Exercises. Seated knee raise exercises strengthen the large muscles in your legs—the quadriceps in the front of your upper leg, and the hamstrings in the back of your upper leg. These muscles are needed to help keep your knees strong—they’re the muscles that support the function of your knees. Here are the steps for knee raise exercises: Sit straight up in your chair with your feet on the floor, slightly apart. Take one leg and lift it up with your knee bent. Raise up your knee until your thigh is slightly off the chair. You can place your hand under your knee to help you raise your knee up if needed. Then lower your leg with bent knee down and repeat with your other leg, as pictured below:
As shared last month, your Harmony Team appreciates the fact that you’re staying home to remain safe from exposure to COVID-19. Even so, it’s easy to become sedentary in your home, which leads to the consequences of limited mobility. Remember, the evidence confirms that the most effective community-based strategy is exercise to improve leg strength and balance, an approach that can reduce fall risk by an average of 24%.4
Stay strong, active, connected, and informed—not isolated or afraid. We’re all in this together, and together we will get through these extraordinary times.
Your Harmony Team is here to help you!
Thank you for reading this message and, in advance, for sharing it with others.
1Secon, H., & Woodward, A. (2020). We will be closed for a while. Business Insider. April 7, 2020. Available at: businessinsider.com
2Palmer, V.J., Gray, C.M., Fitzsimons, C.F., Mutrie, N., et al. (2019). What Do Older People Do When Sitting and Why? Implications for Decreasing Sedentary Behavior. The Gerontologist, 59(4). 686-697. Available at: academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/59/4/686/4996625
3Long, L., Jackson, K., & Laubach, L. (2013). A Home-Based Exercise Program for Foot and Ankle to Improve Balance, Muscle Performance, and Flexibility in Community Dwelling Older Adults: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1(3). 1000120.
4Stevens, J.A., Sleet, D.A., & Rubenstein, L.Z. (2018). The Influence of Older Adults’ Beliefs and
Attitudes on Adopting Fall Prevention Behaviors. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(4). 324-330.