As we age, we face common health risks like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. This means that while optimal fitness is still a must, not every fitness program is ideal. In typical instances, high-impact exercise is not recommended to anyone from age 50 and upwards because of the amount of stress placed on the joints.
Exercising with illness
If you have already been diagnosed with osteoarthritis – wear and tear of the joints – stop-start activities like high-impact aerobics or squash can aggravate inflamed joints.
For those with osteoporosis – characterized by low bone mass and brittleness of bones – yoga and similar activities can actually cause fractures, due to the bending and twisting that some poses call for. This is not to say that you shouldn’t forego flexibility exercises. In fact, actively increasing range of motion in various joints can significantly reduce discomfort. Focus on daily gentle stretches of the toes, ankles, knees, hips, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and spine.
Maintaining your weight
Keeping your weight balanced is especially important after menopause, as there is a significant rise in the risk of cardiovascular disease. A balance of cardio and strength is essential in combating weight gain and warding off heart disease. Slower strength training and fewer repetitions serve this age group better as it is thought to improve the quality of the movement while also reducing risk.
Rebounding is far more than a kid’s activity. An entire resistance workout can be conducted on a mini-trampoline. Not only is rebounding a great way to strengthen joints and improve balance and posture without impact, it is also considered an anti-ageing exercise as skin tautens and strengthens with every bounce.
Swimming is another great option. It provides a full-body resistance workout without straining joints, and you aren’t at any risk of falling or injury.
Pilates has been highlighted as particularly beneficial for older practisers, as it focuses on building muscles without jarring movements. This means your bones and joints are not at risk as you train.
3 Moves to Fight Back Pain
Improving our core and lower back strength can help prevent future injuries, as well as alleviate current back pain and improve posture. Here are three of my favourite moves for core strength, which improve overall fitness as well.
Back Stretch on Ball:
Lean your torso on a ball with your legs extended. Using your feet to secure you, keep your torso tight and stretch back to form a straight line. Hold for a moment then return to your starting position.
Extended Plank on Ball:
Rest your forearms on an exercise ball and keep your body straight. Holding your torso tight, extend your arms slightly forward. Hold for a moment then return to your starting position.
Leg Tuck on Ball:
Hold yourself up off the ground, with your arms perpendicular to your body and feet balanced on the ball. Keeping your arms strong, slowly tuck your legs in underneath you. Hold for a moment then return to your starting position.
Don’t forget to stretch
Stretching is a vital component of keeping fit, especially as we age. We need it to ward off stiffening of joints and muscles as we age, so don’t be tempted to skip it. Stretch after you exercise, when muscles are at their warmest, or stretch independently to keep supple.
*Yoga is a great option, but make sure you have an instructor who is familiar with exercising older women, and modifies exercises accordingly.
Full body stretch
‘Around the world’ stretch: Stand with your legs wide apart. Grab your hands behind your back and interlock your fingers. Now, bend over keeping your legs and arms straight and lifting your arms over as much as they can go, getting your hands as close to the ground as possible. Hold this stretch for 15 – 20 seconds.
Complete the stretch: Add in a quad stretch (stand on one leg and pull the opposing leg back, foot to glutes) and tricep stretch (reach one hand up to touch your shoulder, then use the other hand to pull your elbow as far up as possible) and you will have successfully stretched the whole body in 3 simple moves.
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