Because aging is a natural process, some physiological changes are inevitable, like bone and muscle degeneration, and limited functions because of altered health states. Typical forms include osteoporosis, arthritis, low back pain and obesity from a dip in metabolism.
“Most vital organs also become less efficient. The kidneys retain less water in the body, the heart pumps less and bones stop remodeling,” says Options Studio manager, Stott Pilates-certified and licensed physical therapist, Chris Almeida. Depression and social detachment accompany the physical limitations seniors feel, hence people at this age must maintain strong emotional connections through interactions with friends and family—and staying fit to raise feel-good neurochemicals in their bodies.
Grandma gets physical
Remember that any senior must be examined by a doctor before embarking on a fitness routine. With a medical thumbs up, do any of these routines at least three days a week, five at the most, to maintain muscle strength and elasticity, cardiovascular health and mental sharpness.
Rhythmic stretching techniques, like Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates and ballet, specifically encourage body awareness through proper breathing techniques, allowing for oxygen to circulate well in the body. This increases both mental concentration and joint flexibility.
Try a Pilates move for improving core strength and flexibility:
Use a lightweight medicine ball weighing one to two kilograms, or a basketball or volleyball. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-distance. Hold the ball across the chest with your arms fully extended. If difficult, bend elbows slightly. Inhale, then exhale as you twist from your hips and bring the ball to the right while pivoting the left foot to the right. Inhale as you return to center then repeat on the left. Do one or two sets of about five to eight twists or repetitions on each side. To make it more interactive, pass the ball in a group, forming a circle of five or six.
Reflexes weaken with age, and balance exercises are recommended to counter this physiological change. Exercises should be done to safeguard against falls and foot problems. Try a single-leg move for better balance and coordination: Hold on to a chair or table with one or two hands. You can also hold on to someone. Inhale, and exhale as you lift your right leg out to side. Return leg back to start and do another eight to 10 repetitions, doing the same on the other leg. Eventually, you can progress holding on to your waist and moving your leg to all planes of motion—forward, back and slant.
A senior adult is in the process of rebuilding strength that has weakened over time. The primary focus is to get strong and not bulk up. Weights should be kept light to medium to avoid injury.
Try a compound move to strengthen upper and lower limbs: Use light dumbbells weighing three to five pounds, or a light resistance band usually in a yellow or red color.
With weights: Hold the dumbbells with both hands and palms up, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale, then exhale as you step your right foot forward into a lunge and curl your elbows bringing the weights in front of your shoulders. Step your right foot back and extend or straighten elbows back while inhaling. Repeat on the other leg, flexing elbows each time. Do eight to 10 reps per leg, in one or two sets, depending on strength.
With band and partner: Wrap the band around the hips or waist of the person lunging in front. As he or she lunges forward with hands on the hips, the person holding the resistance band lunges backwards. Switch places. Do one to two sets of eight to 10 reps per leg.
A good cardio workout is also a great way to counter declining lung capacity in the elderly. Read more about it in the September issue of HealthToday, out now in major bookstores and newsstands.