“Come to bootcamp with me! It’s so fun and you’ll feel great,” your friend encourages. You go along, you want to spend time with people you care about and fitness is important–what could go wrong? Strained muscles, new back problems, or knee pain; bodies over 50 have different needs and the goals of ‘fitness’ often change.
The bootcamp scenario is exactly why I became certified as a personal trainer for aging adults. I would have clients coming in who wanted to exercise, but return with new problems. I would show them some moves, but it wasn’t enough. As a martial artist, I had trained many young people, but never older adults. In 2016, I became an ACE Certified personal trainer and then took specialty training from the Institute for Aging. I wanted to honor my clients’ desire to move.
Fitness for Older Adults
Fitness is really a measurement of how much you can do, how fast. For instance, running one mile in 15 minutes, or lifting 50 lbs, 12 times. Fitness is not usually the goal of older adults, but it’s what they ask for when they need help. I ask instead, “What is it that you want to do?” Typically, people want a healthy heart, they want to get up and down easily, they want to play with the dog or their grandkids, they want to step onto a stool with confidence, travel and carry a suitcase, play golf or jazzercise.
They want to live an active life, not looking on from the sidelines. And many do not want their families to worry about them and they definitely do not want to lose their independence.
Muscle Loss with Age
Sarcopenia is the medical term for age-related muscle loss and it happens to just about everyone, beginning in your 30s. If you are inactive, each decade can result in a 3-5% loss of muscle mass and that’s dangerous. Muscle is very important to protect your bones, keep your joints in place, and protect you from lifting injuries.
You can help reverse muscle loss by eating a balanced diet that includes enough calories and protein to build mass. And most importantly, you can use strength training to improve or maintain muscle mass.
Older adults need mobility for getting around and remaining active, good balance to prevent falls, strength to confidently lift and carry items, and a good heart for energy and stamina. The exercises taught in Strength & Vitality’s classes address each of these needs. Here are a few of my favorites:
The kettlebell swing builds muscle on the entire body because it requires strength in your legs and arms and an engaged core for balance. The repetitive motion adds cardio to the mix as well!
Use a kettlebell weighing 10, 15, or 20 lbs (a dumbbell could also be used). Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hinge at the hip, keeping your back straight and with both hands, swing the kettlebell between your legs like a pendulum. Keep the kettlebell close to the crotch and not down around the knees to prevent straining your lower back.
See the video below for my demonstration. It’s very useful to get instruction from a qualified trainer first and also to start off with lower reps and build up slowly.
Beginner Bodyweight Workout
These are exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime – no excuses!
Standing on One Foot
Simply plant one foot and lift the other. Use a chair to help keep your balance if needed. This is good to promote balance and it engages all of the muscles in your legs and core for strength. You can add a weight (dumbell or a household item) and hold it over your head–now you’re adding upper body strength and simulating everyday motions, like taking a box off the shelf.
People are skeptical when they are asked to do crawls in my class, but soon they are flowing from one type to another. The purpose of each of them is to hold yourself off the ground at four points (2 hands, 2 feet), or six points (adding 2 knees). Crawls are great because they strengthen your core and help you with balance. Getting up and down from low places becomes much easier when you’ve practiced crawling. There are a large variety of crawls you can do, but here are two that we include in class.
Bear Crawl: From your hands and knees, lift up to all fours with your butt in the air–similar to a down dog yoga position. Push your right foot into the floor and move your left foot and right hand forward. Alternate the arm and leg movements while keeping your back straight. Crawl for a predetermined distance or time.
Crab Walk: Sit with your feet hip-width apart in front of you and your hands behind you with your fingers facing your hips. Lift your hips off the floor and tighten your abs. Move forward by moving your left hand followed by your right foot, then your right hand followed by your left foot. Walk like a crab for a predetermined distance or time.
The bottom line for anyone over the age of 50, you need to be moving! It can be easier with a coach or a community of people with the same challenges. We offer exercise classes for people ages 50-90 who want to reclaim an active life. We offer classes both online and in person and we keep class sizes small so that I can keep an eye on everyone’s form and ensure the safety of all participants.
Find out more about some of our exercise options here, or call for a free consultation today: (410) 296-4028.