COVID -19 pandemic has forced lots of individuals, including the older adults/seniors into social isolation. This social isolation has been recommended to reduce the risk of exposing and/or contracting COVID -19.
Social isolation further creates a slew of concerns for the large number of older adults/seniors, especially the frail and/or with mobility challenge albeit the need to reduce the risk for COVID -19. These added concerns may include worsening of the physical and mental health such as arthritis, risk of falls, loneliness, depression, loss of muscle mass etc.
Home-Based Exercise - Does It Help?
Evidence shows that it is imperative for seniors to continue to engage or maintain some level of physical activity during the social isolation to help alleviate frailty and improve overall quality of life. However, the fear of contracting the virus, the lack of available and/or
appropriate seniors’ group activity/exercise (e.g. reduced in capacity, temporarily halting group exercise classes) have not rendered the opportunity and ability for the seniors to maintain their physical activity levels during the social isolation.
In-home exercise or physical activity program can be a potential alternative for the seniors to continue to partake and maintain some form of physical activities. Evidence shows that home-based exercise with in-person contact could potentially lead >20% decrease in falls. In addition, research demonstrates that older adults who were frail prior to the initiation of an exercise program had greater improvement in mobility of function at the end of the research, with one research study measured at 5x times reduction in risk of frailty one year later.
· Multi-component, low intensity exercise programs, (20-45 minutes, at least 3 – 4x/week) have been recommended and appropriate for pre-frail and frail older adults. The aforementioned programs can be a combination of:
o Resistance exercise e.g. using a stretchy-band for upper and lower body
o Functional exercise e.g. sit-to-stand, stepping over obstacles
o Balance exercise: e.g. tai chi, heel-toe walking
o Endurance exercise e.g. walking, chair exercise
· Use of technology: An 1:1 virtual home-based exercise program could be an option for the older adults who prefer to take part in a home-based exercise program
It is imperative and vital for pre-frail seniors to continue to maintain some form of physical activity during the pandemic social isolation. Home-based exercise program including the use of technology (e.g. virtual 1:1 home-guided exercise program) could be a potential alternative for some seniors to engage and/or continue to maintain physical activity at the comfort of their homes.