Front room fitness for the elderly

Helping older people to keep fit

Helping older people to keep fit - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chris Tuckett, a physical activity clinical champion for Public Health England and physiotherapist has given some helpful advice on how the over 70s can keep mobile, fit and healthy through this period of self-isolation.

Heel raises. Picture: CSP

Heel raises. Picture: CSP - Credit: Archant

Public Health England recommends that anyone over 70 should aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity each day, to maintain a good level of wellbeing.

Yet, this becomes more of a challenge when ensconced at home.

So now, the usually active residents of East Devon will need to consider swapping their daily walks to the shops, the beach or countryside, with a fitness regime that is safe to do at home.

Chris Tuckett has given this advice on the best ways to remain active at home:

Toe raises. Picture: CSP

Toe raises. Picture: CSP - Credit: Archant

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Use the stairs. Climbing up and down the stairs is one of the absolute best exercises anyone can do – if it is safe to do so. Performing some stair-climbing in five-minute bouts to music is a fantastic way of building lower limb strength.

If stair-climbing is too much or if there are concerns about falling, then simply using the bottom step and stepping up and down for five minutes is still effective. This can be extended for shorter or longer durations.

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A chair is another great piece of fitness equipment. A simple sit-stand-sit movement is great for legs, thighs and bottom muscles. It is essentially a squatting exercise and is particularly good for those who have difficulty rising from lower seats normally.

Marching on the spot can be effective as a form of cardiovascular exercise to get the lungs and heart working a little harder. Start slowly to begin with - try 10 to 20 seconds, then build up gradually each time. Anyone concerned about falling should stand close to a sturdy object for a handhold.

Sit to stand. Picture: CSP

Sit to stand. Picture: CSP - Credit: Archant

Heel raises (tip toes) are crucially important as not only do they strengthen the calf muscles they also help with managing swollen ankles. This exercise can help to lessen feelings of dizziness that elderly people on certain medications may experience when standing. It forces up blood pressure when it can have a tendency to suddenly drop, from being seated to standing. Perform calf raises at the kitchen counter whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or the toast to ‘pop’. Ten to 20 repetitions at a time is plenty.

Balance work should also be prioritised for safe mobility. A simple single leg stand for ten to 30 seconds at a time can really sharpen this skill very quickly. Practice it regularly close to a sturdy object for support if required but do try to not hold on whilst doing it. However, if a single leg stand is too difficult then a modified balance exercise can simply be standing with one foot behind the other or standing with feet very close together to narrow the base of support.

Breaking up periods of being sedentary is crucially important, but it can be done easily:

Don’t complete all the household tasks in one frenzied one-hour slot in the morning then sit down for the rest of the day. Distribute these tasks throughout the day.

One leg stand. Picture: CSP

One leg stand. Picture: CSP - Credit: Archant

If watching TV, stand during the adverts and practice the sit-stand-sit exercise.

Set an alarm, timer or voice assistant, to prompt movement every 20 to 30 minutes.

Use a fitness tracker to set a mildly challenging step goal for the day.

Housework and household tasks such as vacuuming, hanging out the washing and gardening are very effective forms of exercise

Heel-toe walking. Picture: CSP

Heel-toe walking. Picture: CSP - Credit: Archant

It’s really important to maintain social contact when self-isolating, so when calling, facetiming or video-calling friends and family try to stand, walk and move whilst doing so.

Helpful Sources:

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has a helpful video with exercises to prevent falls - For more information, see

Heel-toe stand. Picture: CSP

Heel-toe stand. Picture: CSP - Credit: Archant

With clinics in Seaton and Sidmouth, Jurassic Physio has created a plan of simple, but very effective exercises to help people stay fit at home – see Anyone with any physio-related questions can call 07429 831747 or, for anyone struggling at home with any particular niggles or issues, Jurassic Physio is offering video and phone consultations.

Active Devon is developing ways to help and encourage people to remain active and has some helpful exercises for the elderly on its website -

NHS exercise regimes:

Age UK: or, for health queries call 0800 678 1602

Sport England: Stay In, Work Out

*Chris has worked as a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist within the NHS, as a specialist falls prevention practitioner within acute NHS hospitals and now, he works for NHS England as an improvement manager within the patient safety improvement programmes workstream. Chris has two BSc degrees (Sport and Exercise Science and Physiotherapy) and a MSc degree in Quality Improvement and Patient Safety.

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