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How seniors can stay active in mind and body while social distancing

How seniors can stay active in mind and body while social distancing

By Angie Antonopoulos

The outbreak of COVID-19 may have added an extra layer of isolation and anxiety for some seniors. However, these challenges can be overcome, according to some Southside experts.

“We focus so much on the physical nature of any kind of virus and how it’s going to affect us physically, but we forget that there’s a psychological component that is huge and plays a large part into impairing our ability to function on a day-to-day basis,” said Franciscan Health psychologist Dr. Deann Harvey in Franciscan Health’s blog. “What we strongly encourage is to stop, to take a step back, to take a deep breath and to look at the statistics. …We need to be patient, take deep breaths and get in control of our thoughts.”

Michelle Dial, a certified health coach for her business Michelle Dial Wellness in Perry Township  offers several recommendations.

Establish limits on watching or reading news. Control the amount of negative news you consume. “Stay informed,” Dial said. “If you feel it’s too much, find something else to distract you. …Get outside. Open a window. Look at nature’s beauty.”

Connect with nature. Take a walk, garden or sit outside. Spending some time outside or looking at landscapes through a window or even a picture can help, she said.

Carole Pefley of Carole’s Fitness recommends exercises you can do in your own home. (Submitted photo)

Keep a gratitude journal. Write down what you are grateful for every day. “Write three to five things that you are grateful for,” Dial suggested. “It puts you in a place of being thankful.”

Restart an old hobby. “Take up the old hobby in your closet,” Dial said. “Focusing on a hobby promotes staying in the present.” Woodworking, knitting, painting, or photography are activities that can keep you occupied for hours.

Connect with friends, family and programs online. Access information, including music, classes, worship services, clubs and even those closest to you through the internet. Zoom and Skype can offer a way for you to see friends and family virtually.

Meditate. Close your eyes, Dial suggested. “Think about a challenging situation you encountered in your life. Take a few deep breaths.” Then, think about a happy memory in your life. Breathe. “Trust that what is happening is temporary,” she said. “Feel what you feel; it’s okay to feel. …Move on to the best feeling and the next.”

Exercise. Walking, yoga and strengthening muscles are great ways to stay fit. Carole Pefley, owner, group instructor and personal trainer of Carole’s Fitness near Edgewood, recommends working on your core. “If you have exercised for any length of time at all, and then even miss a couple of classes, you realize how quickly your body forgets to respond.” She suggested tapping into what you’ve learned in class.

For chair exercise, she recommended finding a sturdy chair. “Lean back to touch the back of the chair and relax your core. Hold on to the back-chair legs, interlock your fingers behind chair,” Pefley said. “Then, begin lifting your legs and knees together. “Do as many as possible without stopping or too fast, four to six for one minute.”

Below are the recommended CORE steps, in order: 

1          Double leg raise (legs together)

2          Double knee raise (knees together)

3          Grab a weight or medicine ball, one hand on each end of weight, holding weight straight out from shoulders.  Sitting on front of chair, lean back until you feel tension in the core. Hold for one minute. To make it harder, raise your knees.

4          Chair position, as noted above, raise legs off floor about one foot and alternate legs up and down (called a flutter).

5          Chair position, as noted above, crossing legs out and in, like  scissors.

6          Chair position, legs together, and make circles, first one way, then reverse.

Balance, relax and focus, both sides (naturally) and hold for 30 seconds on each side; a strong core contributes to good balance:

1          With one foot behind the other, and arms up lean to side opposite of foot behind.

2          Arms extended from shoulders, raise knee and move to side and back front.

3          One arm up, opposite knee raised.

4          Arms extended out from shoulders, foot placed on side of knee.






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