Exercise for elderly: Are over 70s allowed out for exercise?

The likelihood of dying from COVID-19 rises dramatically if you are over the age of 70, says medicine professor Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia. He said the Government’s quarantine advice is “absolutely the right thing to do” in order to “stop a substantial number of deaths.”

The reason for this is mainly because older people have weaker lungs, making them an easy target for the coronavirus, which attaches itself onto cells lining the lung.

Elderly people are also more likely to suffer from chronic inflammation, which undermines the body’s ability to respond to the virus.

The over-70s have also been told to, as everyone else, take part in stringent social distancing measures, which include:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus, including high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
  • Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently closed as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family, instead, keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet and social media
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

The Government has issued additional guidance for a smaller number of people who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

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They have been told to self-isolate at home, also known as ‘shielding’ for at least twelve weeks.

This means all face-to-face contact must be avoided, and staying inside at all times only allowing essential visitors.

Essential visitors constitute of NHS staff or carers (including family carers).

If you need to have something delivered, such as friends and family bringing food shopping, it must be left on the doorstep.

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How to keep fit indoors

It is still not entirely clear what the quarantine period entails for the over-70s as some are deemed more at risk than others.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said the over-70s will still be able to go out and “walk the dog” as long as they kept away from crowds.

Sir Muir Gray, professor of public health at the University of Oxford recommends that elderly people still get out of the house regularly, if they are allowed to do so.

He said: “We need to be careful that people don’t just assume they’re going to be housebound.”

For when elderly can’t get outside, Sir Muir recommends an indoor exercise regime which focuses on strength, stamina, suppleness and skill.

Men are advised to build strength by doing 70 press-ups per day – in two sets if needed – while women should lift weights whenever an ad break comes on TV.

Sir Muir recommends 1kg bags of sugar to do this.

Squats will help to strengthen your quadriceps, while brushing your teeth while standing on one leg with your eyes closed will improve balance.

Government health advice states: “Understandably, you may find that social distancing can be boring or frustrating.

“You may find your mood and feelings are affected and your may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being outside with other people.

“At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse.

“There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time.”

A quarantine of the over-70s would carry with it a big psychological penalty too.

Research has in the past linked loneliness and social isolation to increased rated of obesity, Alzheimer’s, depression and heart disease.

The Government added: “We know that staying at home for a prolonged period can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people and that you or other household members may feel low.

“It can be particularly challenging if you don’t have much space or access to a garden.

“It is important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if you need it.

“Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media.

“There are also sources of support and information that can help, such as the Every Mind Matters website.”

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