Working your way back to fit

Susan Dawson-Cook

After months or years of lounging on the couch, are you afraid to step into the gym again? Perhaps you’ve suffered a long illness, a recent injury or parked in front of the TV watching ball games the past couple of months. Whatever your reason for being sedentary, I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late to get moving again. Exercise at home if the gym seems too intimidating and begin with a short bout of exercise until you gain confidence. If you start out easy and are mindful of limitations, you will feel stronger each day and soon daily living activities will feel easier.

Below are some simple activities you can do to improve strength and aerobic fitness. Please consult with your physician or a certified personal trainer if you need guidance or are unsure if these activities are safe for you.

1. Stand and sit. Sit in a stable chair (not one on wheels) that isn’t too deep. Place your feet hip width apart on the floor. Keeping your weight back, press the heels down into the floor as you rise up from the chair. Try to only use your arms enough to assist with balance. If this exercise causes knee pain you can use a higher chair or boost up the height of the chair with a firm pillow. You can also start from a standing position and bend the knees like you are going to sit. While breathing deeply, hold the squatting position for 10 to 20 seconds.

2. Walk and stair climb. Walk at regular intervals throughout the day to circulate blood and improve digestion even if it’s just in your house. You will have more energy and experience better health by avoiding long periods of time sitting. Once walking around your home feels easy, you can progress to walking in the neighborhood or on a treadmill. Stair climbing is an excellent way to strengthen the thigh muscles as well as the skeletal system. Use a handrail if balance is a challenge to avoid falls. Steps designed for exercise can be purchased to use at home. Make sure the base is securely snapped in place before starting.

3. Feeling weak in the upper body? Try some wall pushups or bicep curls with hand weights or canned goods you have in the pantry. Stiff shoulder muscles can be loosened with slow overhead reaches while sitting with an upright posture in a chair.

Many strengthening exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home with inexpensive and easy to use tools such as dumbbells, resistance tubing, stability balls and gliding disks. After just weeks of working your way back to fit, little by little you’ll find yourself able to do much more than you believed possible.

Susan is an author and AFAA certified fitness professional and has worked for Vital Moves (850-4089) since 2006.