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Coronavirus: Self-isolation and exercise at home

self isolation exercise older people

With COVID on the rise again, many of us are isolating, and the prospect of being stuck indoors for a long period of time can be daunting - especially considering the effects it may have on your mental and physical health. It's important to keep active while staying home if you're well enough and able to do so. Not only will having a regular exercise slot add routine to your days, but working out is proven to boost mental wellbeing. Here's our quick guide to exercise at home, including workout plans you can try from the comfort of your living room. 

Tips for getting started | Types of exercise you can do at home
Mobility workout | Strength workout |
 Mind workouts
 Exercise videos | Can I go for a walk?


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Exercising at home - how to get started

at home exercises self isolation

If you're stuck inside, exercise is a great way to keep your body and mind active. Not only are there a plethora of physical health benefits that come from moving around more, but, especially during this pandemic, exercise can take your mind off the distressing news and give you something else to focus on. Here are a few things to bear in mind before you lace up your trainers...

1. Don't exercise if you feel unwell

If you don't feel healthy enough to exercise or are showing symptoms, it's important that you don't push yourself. Also think about any health conditions or injuries you may have which will affect the type of workout you can do. If exercise isn't on the cards for this reason, why not partake in a sedentary activity to uplift your mood and keep you occupied? If you need some inspiration for what to do, you can ask our wise gransnetters on the forums too.

2. If you don't have equipment improvise

"I follow the Feel Better in 5 Plan by Dr Chatterjee and do a few leg raises, squats and arm exercises with a couple of tins of beans while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil. It’s made a rapid difference to my balance and to my joints."

Need some dumbbells but don't have any to hand? Grab some tins or something similar that isn't too heavy for you and get moving!

3. Set the space up 

Ensure you have a clear space to exercise in, and remove any objects on the floor that might cause you to trip. You may also wish to utilise your furniture by doing a chair based workout. It's also important that you are working out on the right surface - nothing too slippy. It might be worth investing in an exercise mat, like this one, if you're planning on doing any floor-based exercises.

Make sure you have plenty of water to hand when you're working out so you can keep hydrated, and remember to always warm up and stretch before starting, and cool down and stretch when you've finished to avoid injuries.

5 types of exercises that are good for working out at home

1. Yoga 

"I like yoga. I can't always achieve all the poses, but it makes me feel good."

With its focus on flexibility, strength and breathing, yoga is a popular choice with gransnetters. It's an exercise that provides relaxation, so may be a good way to destress in these trying times. There are many beginner yoga tutorials on YouTube, but it's important that you start slow and build up.


2. Pilates

"We'll do multiple laps of the garden plus regular trips up and down stairs [while in isolation]. My Pilates teacher has just sent a message to say she's setting up a free online class as most of us are over 70."

Pilates is a method of exercise that focuses on strength-building, with its main focus being on core strength. There are lots of YouTube classes for beginners and, as this gransnetter has shown, some instructors will be holding online classes during the outbreak, so if you attend a regular class it's worth checking to see if these resources are available to you. Just bear in mind that if you are following a video, an instructor won't be able to correct you if your form is incorrect.

3. Walking - at home (yes, really!)

"I discovered Leslie Sansone videos on YouTube - she’s a very jolly, upbeat American who focuses on walking exercises for your living room. I’ve found a great ‘15 minute happy walk’ and various other distances - including ‘American heart foundation three mile walk' in which she does all indoor walking. It's worth a thought."

"I've done chair exercises from YouTube. Now I do Leslie Sansone walking videos five times a week. It takes half an hour and you've walked two miles without ever leaving the living room. Well worth a try if you're often stuck in like me."

Many gransnetters have posted on the forums about these walking videos on YouTube, that get you moving in your own home. These are ideal if you can't leave the house due to isolation and are wanting a way to keep walking daily.


4. Strength training exercises 

"Start gently and build up your strength and stamina slowly." 

If you're looking for at-home routines to try, our strength training page has a video on how to work out around the home, and some easy exercises to get you moving and build up strength from the comfort of your living room (or kitchen, bedroom, wherever you have space).


5. Tai chi 

"What calms me? I do yoga or tai chi at home via YouTube, read, listen to relaxation apps, watch a nice film or TV programme."

Tai chi is a popular hobby for many older people. As it's low-impact and has loads of health benefits, it's a great way to take in some gentle exercise, and you can get started with this by following an online tutorial at home.

Mobility workout

exercise older people self isolation

We asked the experts at The Gym Group to put together a few workouts you can do at home to keep you active and healthy. Here's their mobility workout for over 50s.

How to do it

  • Perform the following exercises as a circuit, doing each exercise in order
  • Spend 15 to 30 seconds on each exercise, before moving onto the next
  • Repeat the circuit one to three times

The exercises

1. Climbers
Raise your arm in the air and raise your opposite knee to a right-angle bend. Bring your arm and knee down to standing and repeat on the opposite side, like you're climbing a ladder.

2. Twists
Be as upright and as tall as you can. Keep feet planted hip width apart, raise arms in front of chest with one hand on top of the other and twist torso to move your arms to the side of the body. Try to increase range of motion each twist.

3. Bend and Reach

Hold arms by your side with palms facing inwards. Forward fold your torso, bending at the hip and reach your fingers towards the floor. Increase the range of movement on each repetition.

4. Chest Stretch

Raise your arms up so your forearms are parallel to your head, creating a right angle at the elbow, palms facing outwards. Push your chest through and shoulders back until you feel a stretch in your chest. Increase range of motion each time and hold the stretch for a set time.

5. Hamstring Stretch

Place one foot out in front of the other with your toe pointing towards the sky, leg straight. Bend the other knee and move your torso towards your thighs. Keep your back straight and bend at the hip.

6. Bent over arm raises

Bend your knees and bend over to a 45-degree angle between the torso and the thighs. Stretch your arms out in front of you and raise your arms over head. Increase the range of movement with each rep.

7. Hip Flexion Stretch

Place one foot in front of the other. Bend your front knee and remain straight with your back leg. Slowly shift weight towards the front leg and feel the stretch in the hips. Hold for set time.


Strength workout 

Our second workout from The Gym Group is ideal if you want to build muscle strength. The exercises can also be performed from a chair.

How to do it

  • Perform the following exercises as a circuit, doing each exercise in order
  • Spend 15 to 20 seconds on each exercise
  • Repeat the circuit one to three times

The exercises

1. Running on the spot
Start nice and steady and then look to build.

2. Water bottle rows
Keep your chest up, and your back straight. Bend over at about 45-degrees with a straight back and engage your core. Hold a water bottle (full or empty) in each arm and hold arms out straight towards the floor. Lift each arm so the bottle touches the rib cage driving the elbow back and repeat. 

3. Squats/leg extension

If standing, hold a chair and squat down as far as comfortable and engage legs and glutes to push back up. If sitting, raise your leg out straight, squeeze the quads and release.

4. Press ups/seated dips (touch bum on seat)

If standing, stand arm’s length from a wall, place hands flat on the wall and bend arms to bring your head closer to the wall. If sitting, place arms flat on the chair each side of your hips, push down to elevate part or all of your body and release.

5. Water bottle wood-chop

Hold a bottle in two hands on one side of the body, raise the bottle keeping your arms straight diagonally to the other side of the body twisting at the torso and hips. Release and repeat.

6. Forward bend (bend at hip)
If standing, keep legs straight, forward fold and reach hands to the floor. If sitting, move closer to the edge of your seat and extend your legs straight in front of you. Reach your arms out straight as close to your feet as possible.

7. Y-T raises
If standing, bend knees slightly, fold torso and keep back straight. Raise arms in a Y position in front of the body, pull arms back to create a T and repeat. If sitting, fold your torso towards your thighs and continue as if standing.


Mind workouts

mind workouts

Don't neglect training your mind too. Here are The Gym Group's pick of exercises to keep your mind occupied. 

1. Seated breathing

Put your right hand on your chest, your left hand on your belly, and inhale so your left hand rises. This is abdominal breathing – the right way! Breathe out and repeat.

2. Standing breathing

Place both hands on your belly, and breathe in so your belly fully expands. Breathe out and repeat.

3. Standing breathing with arm raises

As above but slowly reach arms above your head while maintaining belly breathing.

4. Mindfulness – raisin exercise

With this exercise you really can use any sort of food item. Here's how to do it:

  • The goal is to focus on one single object, bringing your mind to the present.
  • Pay attention to the way the raisin (or any other kind of food) looks, like you’ve never seen one before.
  • Notice how it feels, how it smells.
  • Lie it on your tongue for a while and notice how it tastes.
  • When you bite through become aware of how the taste increases.

This is a great mindfulness exercise that is a way of focusing on the present moment and accepting what you’re feeling which has a calming and therapeutic effect.

5. Brain Yoga

  • Take your left hand, make a fist and extend your thumb.
  • Do the same with your right hand but extend your little finger.
  • Now switch them so it’s the left hand with the little finger and right thumb.
  • Not so easy? The coordination involved will strengthen neural connections, which will help both memory, controlling sensory and muscular activity.
  • To make this harder try clasping your hands together and mentally pick which two fingers you want to raise without the others lifting up.

6. Sudoku

These engaging puzzles require you to apply problem-solving skills in a fun and easy to learn way, using logic and memory skills which push the brain to make connections. Sudoku puzzles are available anywhere – in most newspapers and magazines and online too.

7. Jigsaw puzzles

Don’t forget that jigsaws are a fantastic tool for engaging short-term memory, as your brain has to sort through a series of colours and shapes in order to assemble a visual picture. The more pieces, the harder your brain has to work, and the greater the reward. In fact, 'clicking' a piece in place has been shown to produce dopamine, which can help concentration and obviously provides a lot of self-satisfaction.

If a 1000-piece landscapes leave you bored, try a smaller puzzle and flip the pieces over so you’re looking at only the blank side. With the colour removed, you’ll have to rely only on shapes, which provides another challenge. 


Exercise videos

exercise at home isolation

"I've recently been doing the workouts from NHS instructor live videos. There are various workouts, 45 minutes long, and I find them good."

"I have had a knee replacement, and thought I was doomed to walk with a stick forever. However I realised that I needed to build more muscle and begun to work out every day using YouTube videos. I began with seated and functional exercises for seniors. I also liked ‘walk at home’. Later, I graduated to light hand weights and ‘standing abs and cardio’ routines. These resistance routines mean that I now feel more like 35 than 70, can nip up and down stairs with ease, and can kneel easily because my knees are well padded with muscle."

When it comes to fitness at home, there are a wealth of resources available online that make exercising from the comfort of your own home easy and accessible. To get you started, the NHS has a free 'Fitness Studio', which is a series of videos. There's a variety of workouts for different fitness levels, and they even have Pilates workouts that are tailored to certain health conditions, like arthritis and osteoporosis. 

Our page on exercise over 50 also has two videos you can try at home - one on strength training exercises and one on balance exercises. You can find the page and videos here

YouTube is also a fantastic resource for at-home exercisers, as it has thousands of fitness videos available for free. It's worth bearing in mind though, that anyone can upload a video to YouTube, so it may not be a qualified professional instructing you.


Gransnet exercise videos of the day 

During the first lockdown, we selected a new exercise video each day for gransnetters to do together. You can find all the videos we featured below, so if you want a new exercise regime you can follow each video in order or pick and choose the workouts that appeal to you most.

Day one: Leslie Sansone's Heart Healthy 1 Mile Walk

Day two: The British Heart Foundation's 10 minute living room workout

Day three: Yoga with Adriene's Slow and Gentle Yoga

Day fourMove It Or Lose It's keeping active at home workout

Day five: Joe Wicks' 10 Minute Full Body Seniors Workout

Day six: 15 Minute Fat Burning Indoor Walking Workout

Day seven: Day one of Paula B Fitness' weight loss for women over 50 series


Day eight: HASFit's 15 minute workout

Day nine: Leslie Sansone's 1 Mile Happy Walk

Day 10: Joe Wicks' 10 Minute Home Chair Workout For Seniors

Day 11: Gentle mood balancing yoga for women over 50

Day 12: 20 Minute Happy Cardio Workout for Women over 50

Day 13: 30 Minute Get Fit Indoor Walking Workout for Women Over 50

Day 14: Senior Fitness Low Impact Cardio Workout

Day 15: 30 Minute Senior Zumba Cardio Workout

Day 16: Leslie Sansone's Walk Off Fat Fast

Day 17: 20 minute exercise routine for seniors and beginners

Day 18: Joe Wicks' Full Body HIIT Workout For Seniors

Day 19: Standing Abs Indoor Workout for Over 50s

Day 20: Standing Pilates for over 60s

Day 21: Lively 30 Minute Senior Zumba

Day 22: Low Impact Home Workout for Over 60s

Can I go for a walk? 

You can leave the house for outdoor exercise, unless you have been told to self-isolate. This should be limited to once a day, and you should stay in your local area. If you are exercising alone, you are permitted to meet one person from another household, but you should stay two metres away from them.

For more information on what you can and can't do, please check the government's FAQs here.

Disclaimer: The information on our health pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult the NHS coronavirus website if you are concerned you or someone you know has the disease.


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