Is it Safe for Seniors to Return to the Gym?

In recent years there has been a lot of research highlighting the importance of exercise for seniors. For example, we have learned that, contrary to popular belief, weakness and poor balance are linked to inactivity rather than age.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, we are also acutely aware of the increased risk that the virus poses to individuals over the age of 60. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 novel coronavirus-related deaths reported in the United States have been among adults aged 65 years and older.

Gyms are beginning to reopen as a growing number of communities ease the stay-at-home mandates put in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many seniors are now facing a dilemma about the risks of exposure to COVID-19 and the risks of prolonged periods of inactivity, which can include loss of bone density, muscle mass and cardio strength.

Fortunately, there are several options for those looking to stay home and stay fit. There are several resources that offer at home fitness programs designed for the 50+ crowd. For example, AARP.org offers links to several video-based exercise routines and many local retirement communities have taken their activity and fitness programs online with platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, which can be a great way to meet other people (virtually). See what type of programming is available at communities that you may be interested in learning more about for yourself or a loved one. You can also contact your local YMCA and, of course, your own physician for recommendations about effective movements and activity that you can do safely at home.

If you do make the choice to head back to the gym, the following guidelines are recommended by the CDC.

Wash hands often

• Everyone should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds at the beginning and end of the visit and whenever you think your hands may have become contaminated.

• If soap and water are not readily available, such as with outdoor activities, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

• Remind guests to wash or sanitize their hands before serving or eating food.

• Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so visitors do not share towels. Have a no touch trash can available for guests to use.

• Always speak with your physician before beginning any type of exercise routine.

ANGELA BYRGE