Today, I thought I would write about how periods of decreased activity can be problematic for you and why. This is also relevant to people who have been in hospital for a while.
COVID-19 has changed the lives of many, if not all of us. Many of us have been isolating for months to reduce our risk of catching the virus. This has been necessary particularly for the older population who are at greater risk if they catch an infection. Isolation has brought with it decreased amounts of activity and with that – decreased strength and increased stiffness in the muscles and joints. Recent research showed that hospitalization for an older person can dramatically reduce muscle strength even after only a week in hospital.
Strong and flexible muscles are critical to helping support joints in particular the knee, hip and shoulder joints. If unprotected – joints are at risk of injury – and people are at a higher risk of falling and causing more injury.
Recently, I have seen this in several ways. There are increased numbers of people who have experienced falls at home (often resulting in hospitalisation) over this period. We have also had more people presenting with joint pain and discomfort at the practice because of their decreased activity.
For example, we had a previously fit 70-year-old woman present with increased pain and stiffness in her joints and muscles mainly affecting the knee joints. As social restrictions began to relax, she had tried to improve her mobility and strength after months of decreased activity at home and ended up injuring her knees as she started doing more. The problem was the muscles at the front of the thighs – the quadriceps muscles – had become weaker and were no longer doing their protective work for the knees.
So – what is the point of all this?
Well – it shows us (apart from the research) how important maintaining strength and flexibility is at all stages of life – and particularly as we get a bit older. It’s quite possible to help this – you just need to know that you can and how.
Here are a few basic exercises you can embark on to start the journey:
Sit to stand:
From a sitting position with arms across your chest, lean forward and stand upright.
- Start seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor underneath your knees and cross your arms over your chest.
- Bend forward at the hips and stand up until you are completely upright with knees straight.
- Lift your chest and tighten your buttocks.
- Sit down slowly, bending at the hips and knees, and controlling the movement.
Standing with your feet at hips-width apart and arms by your sides, keep your knees straight, lift both heels and rise on to your toes, and then lower to the ground.
- Stand with your feet at hips-width apart and arms by your sides.
- Keeping your knees straight, lift both heels and rise on to your toes.
- Return to the starting position, controlling the movement as you lower both heels to the ground.
Facing a wall with arms outstretched at shoulder width apart and hands on the wall, bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the wall with your body straight.
- Stand up straight facing a wall.
- Take a step back and place the palms of your hands on the wall at shoulder height, slightly wider than your shoulders and elbows straight.
- Bend your elbows, taking your chest towards the wall. Keep your body in a straight line and tighten your buttocks and abdominals. Try to keep your head from poking forward.
- Return to the starting position by straightening your elbows, lifting your chest away from the wall.
Hope this helps and have a great day. Deb