Staying or becoming more physically active over the coming months is one of the most important things we can do to reduce vulnerability to illnesses such as Covid and winter flu – and also to increase the effectiveness of Covid vaccines and any subsequent booster jabs.

If you’re older or less mobile, your physical and mental health and wellbeing is even more important as winter approaches.

Whatever your level of physical activity is currently, we should all try to do a little more or to start do something, if you are currently not physically active. For an older adult this could mean, for example:

  • A few chair-based exercises each day or getting out of the chair to walk or jog on the spot
  • An extra walk around the block, leaving the car at home when visiting the local shop or walking one bus stop further
  • Joining an activity group or arrange to do something sociable with friends

Whatever your exercise level, there has never been a more important time to invest in your health and do a little more. And of course, to keep doing it.

For exercises you can do at home, see Shapemaster’s exercise at home videos

So, why is this important?

  • Being more active reduces your chance of being admitted to hospital with Covid or winter flu and it’s also proven to increase vaccine efficacy
  • It means you’re less likely to suffer other conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke
  • It makes you happier and generally feel better

“There is no point in life where doing more exercise does not improve health in multiple ways.” Professor Chris Whitty

The science

Exercise immediately activates billions of immune cells that recognise and kill virus-infected cells. They race around our blood stream “looking for a fight”. Even a slight increase in heart rate increases the speed of their journey between the blood and tissues, which means the body increases its “immune surveillance” and better equips us to resist infection and deal with viruses that are already active.

In partnership with the immune system, proteins released from muscle direct immune cells to the right places and promote the growth of T-cells.

Exercise is especially beneficial for older adults who are generally more susceptible to infection and have been a particularly vulnerable group during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Richard J. Simpson PhD, FACSM, American College of Sports Medicine, March 2020

As winter draws in, you may prefer to maintain a level of physical activity indoors, so we’ve pulled together some excellent resources which will help you if this is the case:

PE with Joe Wicks

NHS home workout videos

Move it or Lose it workout videos for older people

Yoga with Adriene

10 best online home workouts (The Guardian)

Maintaining a level of exercise indoors will enable you to enjoy more outdoor exercise, adding variety and interest to your wellbeing plan. We’d also encourage you to be sociable in your exercise with friends and family as not only does it increase the fun element, it will help you to commit to it more regularly.

Active travel

Active travel means making journeys by physically active means, like walking or cycling. There are many advantages to this, particularly health, environmental and financial (a triple benefit) so it is well worth considering active travel, as a way to get around, with the added benefit of improving your health at the same time.

  • What about walking the children or grandchildren to school? As well as the fresh air and obvious health benefits, it also reduces school drop-off traffic, saves on fuel costs (and time in queues), not to mention CO2 emissions and provides precious time with the children in those special years
  • Could you safely walk to the shop instead of that short journey in the car? You might meet a neighbour on the way and enjoy a quick chat (great for social interaction and fresh air in the lungs)
  • Or maybe you could take your bike out of the shed and use it as a way to undertake those shorter journeys and quick everyday chores (especially during daylight hours)

As with any exercise, you should find an exertion level suitable for you and make sure that your physical environment is safe. Push yourself but don’t overdo it.

Most importantly, enjoy the multiple benefits of being more active!

Source: gov.uk

Whatever way you choose to stay active this winter, it’s important you do. The pandemic has had an “unprecedented” impact on physical activity levels in England, with 1 million more adults becoming physically inactive in the 12 months to May 2021 (Sport England, Active Lives Survey 2021).  It’s never too late to get active or resume old habits that may have dropped off.

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To find out more about how Shapemaster could help you in your quest to support your older adults and those living with long term health conditions complete your details below and we’ll get in touch for an informal chat.