It’s never too late to get healthy, active and move better! We have worked with many clients over the past 2 decades in the over 60 category. They have often come to us through injury and as they have learned to move better to overcome their injury, they have realised how much regular movement positively impacts their life. The better and more regularly they move, the better they feel!
Over 60 years old and wondering why regular activity is important at your age?
Well, studies show that regular exercise has numerous health benefits including improvements in the following:
• Blood Pressure
• Cardio - vascular health
• Cholesterol and lipid profile
• Osteoporosis and osteopenia
• Neuro - cognitive ability and function
Regular exercise has also been shown to be associated with living longer with fewer illnesses, not to mention making you stronger, more balanced on your feet, more able to live a full life and overall feeling better!
Despite all this evidence, studies have shown that up to 75% of elderly people do not have the required physical conditioning to actually benefit from these adaptations! This being in spite of the fact that there are very few contraindications to stop older people from taking up some form of exercise.
So how do we change this? Well, first some key points on how to start an exercise program.
There are 3 distinct (and equally important) areas that need to be addressed and included in the regime. These include:
Cardio - vascular (aerobic) exercise - i.e. walking, swimming, bike riding, etc.
Strength and conditioning training (anaerobic) - resistance training using body weight (squats/ press - ups) or external modalities (therabands or weights)
Flexibility and proprioception - i.e. stretching and balance work
So lets take a deeper look at these 3 areas:
CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS is a determining factor for your functional independence and enhanced quality of life. Studies show that up to a third of your age - related reduction in aerobic capacity, can be reversed with an extended period of aerobic conditioning (six months or more). So in a nutshell, even if you’ve done very little walking, swimming, biking or general activity in the past, if you start now and continue with it regularly at the appropriate duration and intensity, in 6 months time, you will have improved your aerobic capacity by 33%.
Ready to start? Lets assess current level of aerobic conditioning, by putting you into one of the broad categories below (if you are not sure what category you fit into, please contact us on the contact page and we’ll help you out)
A - I never walk, I drive everywhere I go and only walk around the house
B - I walk to and from the shops fairly regularly, about 5 - 10 mins walk each way
C - I walk everywhere, more that 20 - 30 mins total walk time each day
Once you’ve figured out which broad category you fit into, take a look at what we recommend below:
1) What type of exercise should I do?
A - If you haven’t done much before, we recommend you start with walking.
B - We recommend you keep walking, but try to increase parameters 2 and 3 below, and try to increase walking stairs/ escalators
C - Start walking stairs and escalators if you haven’t already; think about how you could incorporate swimming/ stationary bike into your routine
2) How long should I exercise for?
A - Aim to get out for a 10 - 20 minute walk (depending on how you are feeling). We recommend starting with walking the block a few times, so that if you get too tired, you’re not far from home.
B - Aim to increase the time you walk to 30mins of walking 5 times a week
C - Keep it at 30 mins walking and increase intensity (3 below) or add bike or swimming for 20 mins. Start with once or twice a week and you can build this up from there. Check the intensity below.
3) How hard should it be?
A - Use the ‘talk test’ , which means you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation while performing the work.
B - Use the ‘talk test’ above for three quarters of your walk, and the last quarter try to increase the intensity to a level where you can only say a few words at a time before needing to breathe. The most effective way of getting to this intensity is by walking a hill/ stairs.
C - Try to increase the intensity of at least a quarter of your walking time to a level where you
can only say a few words at a time before needing to breathe. The most effective way of getting to this intensity is by walking a hill/ stairs. If you decide to try the stationary bike, start at a level where you are able to talk comfortably and slowly build it up.
There is a lot research into the increased health benefits of resistance training but yet, this is the area which is mostly ignored. All elderly individuals will benefit greatly from a resistance training regime, irrespective of your current condition, however this does need to be taken into account and worked with carefully to ensure you are doing the right type of resistance exercise for you as an individual. A resistance program for someone with osteoarthritis will be different to a program for osteoporosis for example.
You would build up a resistance program in the same way as you do your aerobic program, i.e. start at a low intensity (weights low, higher reps) and increase load and reps as you get stronger. Starting with therabands as your resistance tool is a great way to get going!
We will be bringing you a video of some key easy exercises soon, so watch this space!
STRETCHING AND BALANCE WORK
One of the biggest fears experienced by the elderly is the fear of falling and the associated injuries resulting from it! Balance and proprioceptive training (i.e. single leg balancing) is therefore a key part of this program! By introducing some stability work into your program, you will find that your balance and confidence will improve a lot!
Here are a few simple ways to put balance work into your day:
1) LEG BALANCE:
• make sure you are next to something yo hold on to lightly (chair/ table/ basin)
• stand tall and keeping your weight through your left heel (although don’t let your toes come off the floor)
• soften your knee and squeeze your glute (left buttock) to support you, as you raise the right leg off the ground.
• Keep your body tall and try and lighten your supporting hand/ take if off if you are balanced, and hold this for 5 - 10 seconds & then repeat on the other side
2) CALF RAISES
• stand in front of a chair/ table/ basin and lightly hold onto it
• with feet hip width apart, soften your knees, squeeze both your glutes to stabilise your hips, and raise up onto your forefeet (toes)
• you will feel your calves (back of lower legs) working, but try to feel the glutes too
• as you are doing these up and down repetitions, try to lighten your hands/ take them off as you do the motion.
• repeat 10 - 15 repetitions
3) STEP UPS WITH BALANCE
• stand at the bottom of the stairs and have one hand on the wall/ banister to begin with
• place your right foot on the the bottom step, and keeping your weight through your heel, squeeze your support (right) glute and step up onto the step
• try not to put your left leg down at all and balance for a second on this step, before stepping back down
• remember that it's important to hold on at the beginning and only start lightening your hand support as you feel balanced (when you take your hand off, keep it close to the banister just incase you lose your balance)
Flexibility work (stretching & mobility work) is also very important in improving posture, and joint ranges of motion. If you're just getting started, these couple of tips may be useful:
1) Shoulder rolls
• stand tall, engage your glutes and keeping your spine neutral and tall, roll your shoulders backwards in circular motions to open up the shoulder joints
• make sure you stay relaxed as you do this and keep the back of your neck long
2) Side Stretch
• stand tall with your glutes engaged and reach both hands up towards the sky without arching your back
• clasp your hands and reach over to one side, keeping your arms as straight as possible
• keep squeezing your glutes to balance you
3) Quad (front of thigh) stretching
• stand next to a chair/ wall to hold on to
• engage your right glute and soften your right knee
• bend your left knee to bring your left foot off the floor and up behind you towards your buttock
• grab your left ankle with your left hand (keep holding on with the right hand), and try to get your body as tall as possible, without arching your back - try to keep the knees as close together as possible too
Watch this space for our full stretching/ mobility routine coming soon!
If you'd like to come and see us or have any questions for us, please CONTACT us!
Improving Posture video series
This first of the improving posture series, focuses on how to stand correctly in a way which puts the least stress on the body.
The second of the improving posture series videos focuses on correct sitting position. Remember that despite good sitting posture you should still get up and move around regularly! Our bodies were designed for moving!
This third improving posture video will take you through shoulder mobility exercises that will help you loosen up tight muscles to help you maintain good posture
This video takes the improving posture series into single leg balance while maintaining postural control. This is really important in falls prevention!
If you've been sitting at a computer all day and your neck, shoulders & posture is suffering, this short shoulder mobility routine will help to open your posture up. All you need is a broomstick!