Have you considered that sweeping the sidewalk and driveway can be a great way to celebrate your independence?
The American Heart Association has some advice for seniors who are living independently. They say if you have hired people to do your chores, think again. Doing your own chores
- is a great way to exercise without realizing it
- builds and maintains your confidence in caring for yourself
- demonstrates your capability to those who care about you.
Why not start outside? Ease your way into exercise, fresh air, and those 15-minutes-a-day of sunlight for Vitamin D.
You don’t even have to be a gardener to do this. Just grab a broom.
Of course, some brooms are better than others for sweeping outside. You’ll want a broom with synthetic bristles, both stiff and soft. Synthetics will last longer when exposed to moisture from soil or small puddles on pavement from rain or sprinklers. Stiff bristles will capture and move larger particles, while the soft bristles will grab the dust and small bits. One good example of this kind of broom is this one from Amazon.
Before beginning your sweeping task, try a simple stretching exercise for shoulder motion, like the one illustrated here, from Fairview Health Services in Minnesota. Stretching is especially important to maintain flexibility as you get older. Stretching strengthens the fascia that connect muscles, tendons and bones. And, yes, you can do this on the porch or in the garage if you don’t want to be caught “exercising.”
For sweeping success:
- As you start, be aware of the position of your spine. Stay gently upright and allow yourself to twist slightly as you sweep.
- Change your leading hand often, to allow both shoulders to gradually loosen and to engage the biceps muscles in both arms.
- Wear gloves. The broom handle tends to rotate a bit as you hold it and can create blisters at the bottom of the thumb where the thumb joins the web to the fingers.
When you are sweeping outside, your exercise goals are endurance, strength and balance as well as flexibility. Try sweeping a small area at first, then gradually increasing the area that you clean regularly. You may want to sweep the porch and front sidewalk daily, and sweep the driveway weekly as your capacity increases.
As sweeping becomes a habit, here are three ideas to get even more value from the time spent in the task.
- Add a bit more exercise, perhaps resting the broom in front of you to do a squat alternating with every 10 sweeping motions.
- Plan your time outside to match the schedules of neighbors and enjoy some conversation while you sweep.
- Practice actively meditating, allowing the rhythms of sweeping to release tensions in your body and mindfully noticing each action of the task. Recognize that each time you sweep will be different from previous times, that each event will be unique.