During the crisis of Covid-19, freedom to move outside your home has been restricted; however you still have the freedom to stay active and healthy within your own cocoon. Here are our tips for cocooning exercises.
For many of you exercise in the past would have been going for a daily walk outdoors. Now you are faced with the challenge of substituting this practice with an alternative. This poses many questions. What exercises should I be doing? Is there a safe way to exercise? How hard should I be working? What equipment do I need? These restrictions are undeniably difficult on one’s physical and mental well-being. On the days where it all gets on top of you, go easy on yourself. Read a book, phone a friend or listen to some music. You will have better days ahead where the sun is shining and you feel energised; these are the days you should embrace getting active!
Good active cocooning exercises will help maintain your balance and strength. Home exercises aim to maintain your muscle strength while also continuing to challenge your balance. Balance proves essential in reducing the risk of falls in an older population. If a new regime isn’t for you instead strive to remain active in your daily routine. Get out in the garden more; cutting the lawn and hedges are great ways to increase your cardiovascular fitness. Indoors; household tasks such as brushing or mopping floors or washing windows also require a certain level of exertion. If you are suffering with lack of motivation or low mood then getting physically active is exactly the medicine you need. When we exercise a chemical called Serotonin is released in the body which helps to regulate mood. This is known as the ‘happy chemical’ because it contributes to well-being and happiness.
How hard should I exercise?
Aim to exercise at a level that suits your ability and fitness level. Should you have adverse effects during exercise stop immediately and seek medical advice. While exercising you should strive to work hard enough so that you are breathless but still able to have a conversation. Resistance exercises are not only important for maintaining bone health but they also help reduce Sarcopenia; which is the loss of muscle mass and function.
Warm up and Cool down
There are two key things to remember when doing cocooning exercises; firstly warm up for at least five minutes which can be as simple as marching on the spot. Secondly, always perform a proper cool down after exercise (which can be the same as your warm up but at a slower pace). This ensures that your heart rate and breathing rate return to normal after exercise. Have a clear floor space in your home where you exercise (approximately 2 metres squared) to reduce the risk of falling. Despite popular belief no high-tech equipment is needed; two cans of beans or bottles of water and a chair are sufficient. When exercising wear loose fitting clothing and a pair of comfortable flat shoes with laces for safety or alternatively exercise barefoot. To gradually progress exercises begin by increasing the repetitions (number of each exercise), followed by the sets (number of times you perform the exercise) and lastly the intensity (how hard you work).
If you are unsure that you are a suitable candidate for unsupervised exercises I would advise you to contact your General Practitioner, in particular if you have an underlying condition. Bear in mind that for most conditions e.g Diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease or Osteoarthritis exercise will usually have a positive rather than a negative effect. Then get in touch with us. Good nutrition is also an important part in keeping a healthy body and immune system. Should you feel like you are lacking interest in food try eating small amounts more often.
Finally, during these unprecedented times take control of your physical and mental health by staying active as possible at home. Contact your GP if you are unsure about starting a new exercise regime and remember that a warm up and cool down are essential when performing home exercises. Stay home, stay safe and stay active!
A PDF leaflet containing suitable exercises for those cocooning has been issued by The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. Please click on the link to access: https://www.iscp.ie/sites/default/files/documents/HSE%20COMMUNITY%20PHYSIO%20LEAFLET.pdf. A video outlining the same exercises is also available https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JG9unCq-yM&t=26s. For more information on lack of appetite access the following link: https://www.indi.ie/news/1351-eat-well,-be-well,-stay-well.html.