The Importance of Exercise as We Age

People are always looking for a magic pill or potion for good health and longevity. Well, I don’t have a pill or potion to sell you, but I do have some free advice. Include exercise three times per week into your normal weekly schedule and you will feel better than you have in years.
Exercise is not for just the young. In fact, exercising is actually more important for the baby boomer population.

Exercise For Seniors

Between the ages of 30-50, we will lose approximately 5-10 percent of our lean body mass (“our muscles”) if we don’t exercise. However, from the ages of 50-80, we will lose on the average 30-40 percent of our lean body mass! That is a frightening amount of muscle mass to lose at an age when we need it the most. This lean body mass is critical for supporting our joints, maintaining bone mineral density and performing our normal daily living activities.

This type of age related wasting away of lean body mass is known as Sarcopenia and it has been estimated that health care costs associated with it in the United States in 2000 amounted to approximately $18.5 billion.

Physical Well Being When We Are Old

Does our physical well being have to decrease as we age? There are many people out there who believe it does. They think it’s “normal” for our health to decline every year until the grim reaper arrives one day and puts us out of our misery. Well, you know what? It’s only “normal” for our physical well being to decline if we let it decline! Increasing your physical activity at any age (i.e. 50, 60, 70) will boost your physical well being.

Exercise, in the form of resistance training, has been shown numerous times to be a safe effective treatment for counter acting this age related loss of muscle mass. Studies have actually shown an enhancement in muscle mass in subjects 90 years old!

How To Get Started?

If you’ve been relatively sedentary over the past few years, how do you get started? First, if you are over 40, it would be recommended that you visit your primary care doctor and have a check-up. After you receive clearance, you can begin an exercise program.

Join a local health club and start out slowly (3 times per week – 30 minutes per workout) on a well prepared workout schedule. It is best to immediately obtain the help of a personal trainer. They will be able to familiarize you with the equipment at the gym and set up a safe effective program to get you started. An exercise program should not just consist of walking on a treadmill. You need to incorporate some form of resistance training to regain and or maintain lean muscle mass.

Mistakes To Avoid

The number one mistake people make is they join a health club and begin a workout program on their own. This results almost immediately in the individual getting overwhelmed, confused and frustrated. Also, injuries often result from performing exercises with incorrect form. Sadly, after only a couple of weeks, these people leave the gym and never return.

That is why it is critical to get help from someone who knows what they are doing! Think of your body like a car. You don’t try to fix your car yourself if it breaks down, do you? Of course not! You take it to someone who knows about cars. Well, don’t try to fix your body on your own. Seek out expert help.

Strengthen Your Bones

As we grow older it is important that we continue to keep our bones strong and healthy, so that we can lower the risk of getting the bone disease osteoporosis, in which there is an increased risk of fracturing bones.

There are a number of reasons why exercising regularly can reduce the risk of fracturing bones. Firstly, exercising helps to keep muscles strong and flexible, which will help lower the chance of you falling over as you, will have more stability in your walking and your ability to stand.

Elliptical Trainer

Elliptical trainers are a perfect form of exercise machine that can be used, as they have a range of benefits other than helping to strengthen bones. They are very good for older people as they do not put and strain or pressure on the joints or bones.

By getting into a routine when you are younger of exercising as least three times a week, you will be able to continue with this routine as you get older. Exercising when you are younger will help your body to build stronger and denser bones, this will help to maintain your bones mass as you get older, which will result in helping to keep you in good shape throughout your life.

Strength Training Machine Guidelines for Seniors

Several pieces of strength training equipment are very popular among seniors. I’m a certified personal trainer. When seniors correctly use these machines, they can expect a considerable difference in fitness results, versus if they use these machines improperly. Bad form stunts results, wastes time, and can cause injury or strain to joints and muscles.

Lat Pulldown

This is that long bar you pull down from above your head, while you sit upright, and you bring it down to in front of your face or lower. This works the back and arms. Keep forearms vertical throughout this strength training routine. Many seniors, especially women, end up bending the forearms to parallel with the floor, as they push the bar way down.

Not only does this take workload off the back (which is the muscle group that lat pull-downs are supposed to target), but in order to bend the forearms this way, you must use a much lighter weight – and a too-light weight will not challenge your back muscles enough.

Avoid yanking the bar down. With control, release the bar upward. Some senior men, eager to use heavy weight, let it just fly back up. Injury can happen. Be humble and use a light enough weight that you can handle with control. Pull the bar down to just above the chest. Some seniors (and younger) crane their necks upward, leaning their head way back. Keep head level, eyes straight ahead.

Seated Cable Row

The person sits upright, legs out in front of themselves, feet against a foot pad, and pulls a weighted handle towards their chest, then releases. This works the back and arms.

Do not lean way back as you bring the handle towards your torso. If you can’t keep your back fairly upright, the weight is too heavy. Keep a little arch in the lower back; no hunching. Keep shoulders relaxed. Release handle with control.

Seated Selectorized Row

The person sits upright, chest against a chest pad. Person reaches beyond pad to grab handles, and pulls handles towards chest. This targets back and arms.

Keeping chest to pad will maximize isolation of the targeted muscles. If you cannot keep chest pressed to pad, the weight is too heavy. Don’t let wrists bend.

Preacher And Seated Curl

The person sits against pad at chest level, places arms (palms up) over pad, grabs handles at bottom of pad and brings handles towards face, working the biceps.

Keep rear on seat. Some seniors lift their butts off the seat as they uncurl (release) the handles towards their start position. If you can’t keep seated, the weight is too heavy. Lifting the butt cheats you of one-half the workout.

Release the weight to an inch above the padding for a complete range of motion. Some seniors bring it down only halfway and then curl up again. This is an incomplete repetition that results in an incomplete, sub-par workout. If you can’t bring the weight up after lowering it down full range of motion, the resistance is too heavy.

Use Light Weights

Seniors should use lighter weights to practice and master proper form for strength training. Some senior men like to be seen working with a lot of weight, so they stick the pin far down on the weight stack. But in order to move the stack, they must cheat and use bad form. Ultimately, they will pay a price in the form of a false sense of increased strength, much slower progress, and oftentimes, shoulder and back injury.

Ankle Strengthening Exercises

There are several reasons why you need to have ankle strengthening exercises, but most important is the need to prevent ankle injury.
The common belief on ankle injuries is that it is only a minor injury, and not serious enough to be treated or taken seriously.

This is why many people do not believe in the need for ankle strengthening exercises. This belief will lead to chronic and recurring long term injuries that will hamper and hinder athletes in their performance, and in some cases, in their personal lifestyle also.

Is Ankle Strength Important?

Once we realize the importance of serious treatment, we can now discuss the classic treatment of ankle sprain. The area of focus is in the following area:

  • Decreasing pain and swelling
  • Rehabilitate joint range of motion
  • Increase muscular movement
  • Increase muscular strength and stamina

To achieve these goals we have to have a comprehensive ankle strengthening exercise program formulated by qualified experts in this field. They would insist on an ankle strengthening exercise that will include resistance exercises with resistance bands or tubes, and using free weights or gym machines. In some instances they will recommend using body weight at the start of the program, then graduating to weights after.

Rehabilitation Program

Recently the focus on the rehabilitation program centered on the lower joints that are in close proximity of the ankle using the single leg resistance strengthening exercises and single leg balancing activities.

The idea is to recreate or simulate the athlete’s movement during the rehabilitation program in order to properly heal the ankle with functional ankle strengthening exercises. That’s why the importance on resistance tubes can not be downplayed since it is the core of the exercises, coupled with the gym weight machines and simulation of the sports movement. This will properly heal the ankle injury without any long lasting chronic effects.

How To Make My Ankle Stronger?

Resistance tube exercises have to involve inward and outward (inside and outside) plane movement. This will help the injured area to slowly recuperate its movement, mobility, and strength.

The next phase to ankle strengthening exercises is the single leg balance on an even surface such as the raised heel movement. The objective is to center and isolate the weight of the athlete on the ankle and see if he or she can balance without falling down, and avoid further injuring the ankle. Once this is achieved the next phase is doing the same exercise on an uneven floor such as foam mattress or revolving disc machines.

Then to further stimulate ankle strengthening exercises, try to simulate specific exercises depending on the sport the athlete is involved in. If tennis, you can pick up balls with one leg only; while for basketball, you can throw the ball standing on one leg only.

Finally, plyometric exercises such as jumps and hopping with the goal of landing on that injured ankle with no pain will be the ultimate objective.

Techniques for Strengthening Your Ankle and Increasing Its Flexibility

An ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries most people will face, especially athletes. Unfortunately it’s also quite debilitating and repetitive injury to your ankle can lead to permanent damage. The best way to deal with injury is prevention.

A common way to prevent twisted and strained ankles is to strengthen them and the surrounding muscle. Stretching your ankle muscles can also reduce risk of some injuries, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. These exercises are fun and easy ways to strengthen and increase the flexibility of your ankles.

Strengthening your ankle can also help if you’ve previously injured it. Previously injured ankles are especially prone to re-injury, according to a 1999 study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine. Do not, however, begin any exercise routine on an ankle that is still injured except under the supervision of a doctor. These exercises are for people that are considered healthy enough to exercise by a doctor.

Always do exercises equally on each foot. If one foot is stronger than the other use the repetitions the weaker foot is capable of for both feet. Eventually the weaker foot will catch up to the stronger one. You don’t want to encourage unevenly distributed strength as this can lead to injury. Running lopsidedly could cause you to trip, for instance.

Ankle Circles

Ankle circles increase the strength of all the muscles the control your ankle and increases the flexibility of them.

Directions: Sit down and lift one foot off the ground. With control, circle your foot clockwise until you feel a burn in your muscles, but stop before you feel any pain. Repeat in the other direction. Now do the same thing on the other foot.

Tip-Toe to Heel Balance (Standing Plantar Flexion to Dorsiflexion)

Standing on your toes (something ballerinas call going en pointe) builds your calf and other ankle support muscles and builds ankle stability. Doing the reverse movement builds your shin muscle, an under-exercised muscle that is very important for a strong ankle.

Directions: Stand near to a wall or next to a chair or table and hold on to it for balance. Standing up on the balls of feet, lift your heels up as high as you can. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Come back down. Stand back on your heels and lift your toes as high as you can. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then come back down. Repeat the whole exercise over again.

Calf Stretch

The calf is the largest muscle that controls the ankle. Keeping it flexible prevents ankle injuries by allowing the foot to merely flex rather than rip when it is twisted.

Directions: Stand near a wall or next to a chair or table and hold on to it for balance. Step one leg behind you. Bend your front legs and come down into a lunge. Lower until you feel a good, but not painful, stretch in your calf. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Do the stretch on both legs twice.

Final Thoughts

My main advice is to hang in there. Results don’t happen overnight. It’s all about being consistent and plugging away at your work outs week after week. Remember, look for “progress, not perfection”!

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