Settlement Guide

Staying active and healthy during social isolation

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Australia’s seniors are staying home more than ever due to COVID-19. You may not be able to move about as much, but keeping active is essential to maintaining your immunity and finding a sense of calm amid uncertainty.


 

Highlights

  • Members of a Logan multicultural choir are keeping their singing alive on Facebook
  • Exercising, meditation and activities like singing can boost your immunity
  • Fasting during Ramadan requires a different approach to keeping active

Queensland-based Mei Har Rundle loved attending her weekly choir sessions with fellow singers of the Mixed Beans multicultural choir, the majority of whom are baby boomers.

It was a lifeline for Rundle when she joined the choir nearly 10 years ago.

It really gives me sanity and joy.

However, social restrictions brought about by COVID-19 forced the choir to stop its weekly meetings when seniors around the country were asked to stay at home.

Catherine Mundy, a well-known Logan musician and conductor of the Mixed Beans choir says this time of limited social movement is especially important to keep the choir running even if it means singing online.

Choir singing
Catherine Mundy by Vincent Swift Photography
Vincent Swift Photography

Mundy and her husband Jay Turner decided to deliver the choir program on Facebook so that members can stay safe in self-isolation or quarantine and still receive some benefits of the program and connect with fellow singers.

The choir sessions now broadcast on Facebook every Tuesday afternoon from Mundy and Turner’s own home – around the same time when the choir used to physically meet at Beenleigh library.

Rundle says she and her 13-month-old baby granddaughter are finding tremendous joy out of this new online experience.  

We jump around, do exercise, and we’re happy, we laugh, we clap but mentally, it does make us feel happier.

Mundy admits there has been a few glitches and bumps along the way for some elderly members who needed help to interact differently in the digital world as meeting online is not the same as being together in the same room.

But in a way, we’re sort of connecting with a wider and more global audience. We’ve got people watching and singing along from far away as Holland and the UK.

In fact, researchers from the Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music have found cancer patients who participated in choir rehearsals for just an hour a week lowered their stress hormones and increased proteins of their immune system.

Mundy adds that in order to stay healthy and happy, older people actually need to do things like singing, dancing and moving their bodies.

Singing
GettyImages Westend61

A recent article by leading physiologists of Bath University in the UK highlights that staying active and healthy during social isolation may improve your immune system.

The goal is to achieve 150 minutes of regular moderate intensity aerobic exercise like walking and cycling every week.

Regular daily exercises can also help manage chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, according to Melbourne exercise physiologist Mohamed Saad.

He says research has shown that your immune functions can be compromised and your susceptibility to attracting viruses can actually increase if you stay inactive.

Saad recommends minimising prolonged sedentary behaviour and remaining active wherever possible doing things like attending to your garden and taking the rubbish out.

Things that are engaging your muscles and are keeping you stand up and moving around.

Many Muslims are currently fasting after dawn and before sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. Saad says exercise during fasting needs to be approached holistically.

Saad advises against high intensity workouts if you are fasting as stronger physical activities consume more energy and could have negative effects from reduced regular refuel of energy during the day.

He recommends moderate walking, some basic strength exercises or playing with children at home.

Queensland’s Bodhi Chan meditation centre is run by Hui Chyuan Shifu who also teaches the moving meditation of Taichi.

He says gentle exercises such as Qigong and Taichi are especially suitable for older people unable to engage in high intensity exercises as these types of movements improve inner energy, blood circulation and balance.

 

Exercising
GettyImages Young777

Hui Chyuan Shifu says what’s even better is to keep the mind healthy by practicing mindfulness in everyday life.

This view is supported by a study from Harvard University and Justus Liebig University which indicates that mindfulness meditation may reduce blood pressure and boost one’s immune system.

If you do breathing meditation which means you pay attention to your breath, because of the breath, we are alive.

He says mindfulness relaxes our alert and attentive beta brainwaves often responsible for our stress and anxiety.

By developing a curiosity to the breath, you are able to find inner peace by activating your alpha brainwaves.

And you don’t need to sit still to practice mindfulness as you can also practice walking meditation at home.

You just try to walk slow, step by step, and you pay attention to your step walking down on the floor. At that moment, you have mindfulness.

While some seniors may be feeling anxious and lonely from social isolation, Hui Chyuan Shifu’s retired students welcomes this period of isolation as an opportunity to find inner peace.   

For 24/7 free over-the-phone emotional support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

If you need interpretation, call the national Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask to connect to your preferred service.

We leave you with the video of “Arirang”, a traditional Korean folk song arranged by Catherine Mundy and sung by Mixed Beans Choir members from their individual homes during quarantine.  

 

Choir singing
MixedBeans
Vincent Swift Photography

 

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