There’s no denying it—the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll this past year on our overall mental and physical health. To keep ourselves and our communities safe, we adopted new daily routines and reinvented socially distant hobbies. For months, by necessity and mandate, we stayed mostly homebound, and our daily physical activity dropped precipitously.
Engaging in daily physical activity to preserve mobility and keep our bodies strong is critical. But for some, it’s not just the pandemic that’s impacting our ability to move. If pain and mobility issues are keeping you from moving more, or as much as you should, then it’s time to add physical therapy to your wellness routine. According to Aysha Morgan, physical therapist at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) in Canyon Park, now is the perfect time to start. But, if you still aren’t comfortable with in-person therapy, most therapists offer virtual visits that can be done in the comfort of your home.
We asked Morgan the affect this past year has had on patients she’s working with, and her recommendations to help us get our bodies moving more frequently and comfortably.
How have the pandemic and social distancing mandates taken a toll on our bodies?
Our bodies need regular physical activity to stay healthy. I’m seeing a deterioration of mental and physical well-being due to the limited options for physical exercise and physical activity during the pandemic. This more sedentary lifestyle is taking a toll on our health and mobility.
To be clear, physical activity is the overall movement of the body and muscles that requires energy. Physical exercise, however, is a planned, structured, and repetitive movement to improve physical fitness. Too little of either one negatively impacts everyone’s health, and the impact is even greater and more difficult to recover from when you are older.
What are the most common injuries or areas of concern you are seeing right now?
I am seeing an increase in knee, hip, and leg issues in my older patients. I’m also seeing more injuries from falls and balance problems.
What simple, at-home movements do you suggest for folks who are looking to improve their strength and balance?
Most importantly, do at least one exercise a day to work key muscles but start slow—and vary what you do. If you walk, for example, vary your daily route with different slopes or steps to better balance and strengthen a variety of joints and muscles. Here are some examples of balance and strength building exercises you can do at home:
- Sit to stand from a chair
- Begin by sitting upright on a chair with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Reach out with your arms and lean forward at your hips until your bottom starts to lift off the chair.
- Move your body into a standing upright position, then reverse the order of your movements to return to the starting position.
- Tip: Don’t let your knees collapse inward during the exercise. Only lightly touch the chair and don’t fully sit until you have completed 10 repetitions.
- Stand to stand (using the back of a chair for support)
- Begin in a standing upright position with your hands resting on the back of a chair in front of you for support.
- Bending at your hips then your knees, squat down as far as is comfortable.
- Tip: Keep your arms relaxed during the exercise and maintain your balance.
- Single leg balance and leg strengthening
- Begin in a standing position with your kitchen counter at your side.
- Lightly touch your countertop with one hand, if needed.
- Lift one foot off the ground in front of your body, transferring your weight to the other leg. When you are balanced, take your hand off the counter and slowly lower your foot to the floor and repeat on the other side.
- Tip: Make sure to maintain your balance and keep your back straight during the exercise.
Make an appointment with a physical therapist to discuss what movements would be best for strengthening areas of concern with your body and for reducing pain. And get moving!
Aysha Morgan, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Canyon Park clinic. She is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist in physical therapy with education from Arcadia University in Philadelphia, PA. PacMed is a multi-specialty medical group with nine neighborhood clinics in the Puget Sound area.
See more 3rd Act fitness articles HERE.