Tag Archive for: senior friendly exercise

For many of us, getting older isn’t easy. We persevere through stiffness, aches, and pains.

The good news is we don’t have to accept these “inconveniences” of age as inevitable.

The key, my friends, is lean muscle mass.  According to Dr. Allen Mishra, an orthopedic surgeon at Stanford, “muscles are modifiable until the day you die.” And there’s recent research to back this up.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vonda Wright notes that “we do not have to be the victims of the passage of time; we don’t have to go down a slippery slope from vitality to frailty and do nothing about it.”  She states that the number one thing that can save our lives is our lean muscle mass.

Muscles play a crucial role in aging and longevity due to their impact on overall health, mobility, and metabolic function. Here are several reasons why muscle matters for aging and longevity:

 

  • Metabolism and Weight Management: Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, which burns more calories even at rest. As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass, which can decrease basal metabolic rate. This makes it easier to gain weight and harder to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn can increase the risk of various health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Preserving muscle mass through exercise and a balanced diet can help mitigate these risks.

 

  • Bone Health is a subject I’m passionate about: Muscles are connected to bones through tendons, and when muscles contract, they exert force on bones, which in turn helps to stimulate bone growth. This is crucial, especially for women who are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), one in two women over 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Engaging in weight-bearing exercises and resistance training can improve bone density and reduce the risk of fractures as people age. And don’t forget impact exercises to “surprise the bones,” which, according to Wolf’s law, stimulates bone growth. If you do have osteopenia or osteoporosis, make sure to find a trainer or physical therapist who has special certification for working with osteoporosis. There are clear guidelines that need to be followed to keep you safe.

 

  • Leg Power Predicts Brain PowerAccording to a UK study by Steves et al 2015, evidence showed that the stronger the legs were, the less risk of dementia and the greater the gray matter in the brain. For those concerned about cognitive decline, this is an actionable step you can take. Strengthen those legs.

 

  • Balance and Fall Prevention: Strong muscles, particularly those in the legs and core, are essential for balance and stability. Falls are a significant concern for older adults, as they can lead to serious injuries such as hip fractures. Having good muscle strength and
    balance reduces the risk of falls and enhances the ability to recover from a loss of balance. Also, don’t forget that having strong arm and shoulder muscles and a strong core can help you avoid a fracture by “catching yourself” before your hips or knees hit the ground.

 

  • Functional Independence: Maintaining muscle mass and strength is directly linked to the ability to perform daily tasks
    independently. This includes activities such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, and getting up from a chair. As people age, the loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) can impair these functional abilities, leading to a loss of independence. Regular strength training and exercise can help preserve muscle function and independence.

 

  • Hormone Regulation: We often perceive muscle as something that helps keep us strong or helps us move.  What we might not realize is that muscle also serves as an endocrine-like organ. When muscles contract, they release these molecules called myokines.  Myokines have positive effects on your Metabolic system, Cardiovascular system, Immune system and your Mental function.  Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protects your brain and supports neuroplasticity essential for learning and memory. A 2023 study by Abou Sawan et al showed evidence that “increasing physical activity can affect cognitive function in older adults.”

 

  • Inflammatory Response: Chronic low-grade inflammation is a common feature of aging and is associated with various age-related diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise, especially resistance training, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can contribute to better overall health and longevity.

 

  • Longevity and Quality of Life (QOL): Overall, maintaining muscle mass and strength is associated with a longer, healthier life. Studies have consistently shown that individuals with higher muscle mass tend to live longer and have a lower risk of age-related diseases. Additionally, having good muscle health improves the quality of life in older adults, allowing them to remain active, independent, and engaged in daily activities. If you don’t have the strength to take a walk, get into and out of your chair safely, or play with your grandkids, your quality of life plummets.

 

One of the key findings from the Okinawa Japan Blue Zone is that their environment naturally encouraged strengthening. For instance, a typical home has low-lying tables, and people sit on the floor. Centenarians rise up and down from the floor on average 30 times a day and, in the process, strengthen their hips, legs, and core and hone their balance. That’s a lot of squats and a lot of function!  Okinawan centenarians tend to their gardens most days. They weed, pull, dig, and squat for one to two hours a day. In contrast, falls are one of the top ten leading causes of death for older people in the US. They have weak hips and legs and poor balance because so many of them are sedentary, sitting in chairs and Lay Z Boys.

 

A few Commonsense Thoughts

We are not destined to go from vitality to frailty

Remember, your muscles are modifiable till the day you die.  Commit to continuous improvement to create the best version of yourself every day!  As Dr. Mishra suggests,  “Exercise relentlessly.”  Do resistance training daily.  He proposes you consider resistance training as necessary as brushing your teeth daily.

You don’t have to join a power-lifting club to maintain your muscle.  Just begin today to do some form of resistance training if you’re able. Work with a physical therapist or trainer to help you develop a customized strength training program regardless of your age. Dr. Mishra notes that the higher the weight, the more susceptible you might be to injury, like tearing a tendon. Instead, it’s more important to be consistent.

Here are some simple strength exercises you could begin today.

  • 💪 Biceps curls with hand weights that challenge you without strain. Emphasize slowing down the unfolding (eccentric phase) of the exercise. 8-10 reps

 

 

  • Triceps kickbacks with hand weights, emphasize slowing down the bending portion of the exercise. 8-10 reps

 

 

  • Resistance bands. 8-10 reps

 

 

  • Planks (start with hands and knees-lifting the knees just off the ground, spine straight) Hold 10-15 sec.

 

 

  • Chair Squats (sit-to-stand) Emphasize slowing the descent to the chair to build more control and strength. Start with five reps twice a day and build from there.

 

Muscles are not just about strength and appearance; they are vital for overall health, mobility, and longevity. To get optimal results, be consistent and take responsibility for showing up for yourself, even if you’re working with a trainer or PT.

One tip Dr. Mishra provided was this: even 8 minutes a day of strength training makes a difference!

If you’re short on time, the BoneSmart Burst™ subscription might be the answer. These 5 to 10-minute bone-safe workouts, designed by a physical therapist, are a great way to start your day or break up a day of too much sitting.  Participants say these bone-safe exercise bursts are “bite-sized enough to be doable with a busy schedule” and “the variety is great!”

In conclusion, to promote healthy aging and improve longevity, take agency for your own progress and modify your muscles with consistency and conviction.

 

Exercise can feel like drudgery when you frame it as something you “have to do” rather than something you “get to do.”

As a movement educator and motivator, I’m always searching for ways to infuse joy into the classes I teach. Why? Because it makes it fun. If movement isn’t fun, why do it?  It should feel good and help change your outlook in some way.

The way I teach is informed by science and research. I’m particularly influenced by the research findings of Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and author of “The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage.”

Across cultures and ages, there are specific movements that both express and elicit joy. Think about hitting a goal, winning a race, or accomplishing something important to you. The universal physical sign for joy is arms thrown overhead in the air. This is seen with young and old, internationally, and even with blind people who’ve never visually seen that movement. It’s a universal physical manifestation of an emotion.

 

 

 

If we listen to music in a group, we might notice people swaying their arms overhead, often in unison, expressing joy and connection.

The feelings you derive from a class can have lasting positive effects. For instance, if you felt strong and capable during certain exercises when you encounter a challenge later in the day, you are already armed with the sense that you are strong enough to handle it. You’ve altered your outlook even outside of class. That’s a powerful way to use movement to foster a positive mental state.

 

Celebrate what you CAN Do!

Sometimes we become so focused on our limitations that we forget to celebrate what we CAN do! Maybe it’s just moving to your favorite music in a way that makes you smile. That’s an absolutely legitimate form of exercise, and you should incorporate whatever kind of movement brings you joy. Movement in any form should be viewed as a gift to celebrate.

Try these Incentives

Use one of these three ideas to feel good during movement: music, nature, and/or people.

Add some motivating music. According to McGonigal, music is a “powerful evoker of joy” and can help release endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins and dopamine are both chemicals in your body that make you happy, but they function in different ways. Endorphins relieve pain naturally. When they attach to your brain’s reward centers (opiate receptors), dopamine (a mood-boosting neurotransmitter) is then released. For example, endorphins will naturally help soothe a runner’s achy muscles.

 

 

“Green Exercise”, working out in nature has an immediate effect on mood and can help people feel calmer and happier, improving mental health.

 

 

 

 

Moving Together
As Barbara Streisand so eloquently sang, “People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”   As a former professional dancer, I felt firsthand the power I experienced dancing, moving, and even breathing as one in a group. The sensations and emotions you experience, whether they be strength, joy, or discovery, are amplified tenfold in a group setting.

 

 

I’ll never forget my first time back teaching in-person group classes toward the end of the pandemic. One of the participants came up to me with tears in her eyes after class. She shared how deeply moved she was by being able to exercise in connection with others again, breathing, laughing, and moving together. This revelation both surprised and touched her.

Track Progress In a Novel Way

Give your trackers a break for a bit. Maybe be a little less data-driven; find a word that best describes how you feel after a workout. Track that instead to support a mindset of joy.

During one of my recent Signature BoneSmart Pilates® Standing Strong classes that I teach, I asked the participants to note how they felt before class with just one word. Some of their words included: “discombobulated, vulnerable, stiff, tired, flustered, and exhausted.”

After an hour of moving together with beautiful music and supportive cues, they each shared a word describing how they felt. These descriptions included solid, confident, invigorated, hopeful, and free. The evolution that occurred with each individual is a testament to the transformative power of movement to elicit joy and optimism.

In Conclusion
The process of moving (even over Zoom) with a joyful mindset and perhaps some motivating music can be transformative and set you up to have a fantastic day!

Some people are either or people. I believe both have benefits for improving bone health.

When you add resistance to your routine, your muscles release calcium, magnesium, and other minerals that strengthen your bones. Your muscles don’t know whether the resistance comes from bands or weights.  Whatever you are more prone actually to do, that is the mode of choice. If you dislike weights, go for bands.
I personally like mixing things up.

Here’s the thing, though, you need to really challenge yourself for change to occur.

With resistance training, it’s too light if you can breeze through 20 reps of an overhead press. You’re building endurance, not strength. You should feel “worked” after 10-12 reps at a given resistance (whether it be weights or bands) with excellent alignment and good breathing technique.

I tell Pilates teachers to load up the springs on the Reformer for leg work for their clients with osteoporosis. If the springs aren’t heavy enough, they won’t gain strength or bone. (of course, ensuring proper form)

The other thing to remember is that your bone health is not only a reflection of your exercise. It’s also a function of your nutrition, supplementation, daily activities, or lack of…it’s difficult to tease out.

I believe your best shot at optimal bone health is doing weight-bearing resistance and impact exercises, dancing, walking/hiking, sports you enjoy AND also addressing other factors in your life that support bone health. When appropriate, medications may be the right choice.

Most people want a multifactorial approach to their bone health. I get that. In many ways, we are our own laboratory.

I want to share this interesting study from researchers at the U. of Oregon demonstrating how training with resistance bands increases bone mineral density.

“It is sometimes difficult for sedentary people to change their habits, and going to a gym would be more difficult. But elastic bands offer an interesting alternative since they allow enough intensity to stimulate bone mass, and a multitude of exercises are possible. Regular practice of 2 weekly sessions involving work on the main muscle groups of the body will increase bone mineral density.”  Here’s the research study

 

 

Picture of Teresa's hybrid Pilates classIn Pilates, you’ll often gain optimal results from an exercise when you make your movements smaller rather than larger.  You’ll also gain more when you focus on the principles of Pilates: Concentration, Control, Centering, Breath, Precision, and Flow. It’s this attention to detail that makes Pilates a Mind-Body Practice.

As with most things in life, “less is more.”  We live in a world where we drink from coffee cups large enough to fill our gas tanks, we eat muffins capable of feeding a family of four, fast food orders are supersized, and Costco supplies us with enough peanut butter to last for years.

Bigger is not always better.

According to Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, “Thanks in part to the pandemic, many people’s exercise priorities have shifted from intense, calorie-burning workouts to activities that also foster a mind-body connection.”

Is Pilates as Good as Everyone Says?

The strength and flexibility workout is having a moment.

What can — and can’t — it do for us?     Enjoy this recent illuminating NYTimes article.

Do you find your butt slowly disappearing or migrating south? Are your jeans sliding off your butt?

Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, is a real thing. The good news is you can do targeted workouts to minimize the loss that people experience from increasing age and all the excessive sitting that’s been happening recently.

It’s not too late to literally perk things up.

Round perky butts play a role in aesthetics but there’s even more that’s important!

Having strong gluteal muscles gives you the power to stand up, sit down, squat, and perform all your life activities with power and grace.

Strong glutes are important for proper pelvic alignment, propulsion during walking and running, and single-leg balance support.  They also help to support the lower back during lifting motions.

 

6 Benefits of taking the Active Aging Bootie Barre class

Strong glutes help your posture and lessen back and neck pain.

Increased sitting can result in slumped posture and “dead butt syndrome”. This is when your butt muscles become inhibited and literally forget how to fire.

How does this happen?  It’s actually a common problem today.  People are spending inordinate amounts of time sitting behind their computers, zooming, etc.  Picture it, your butt is tucked under, your back is in a C curve (I call it cashew posture) and your head is shifted forward in front of your shoulders. Feeling the back and neck pain yet? With all this faulty sitting, the muscles in the front of your hip joints become short and tight and the opposite muscles, the butt muscles, become neurologically inhibited, overstretched, weak, and inactive.  Strengthening the butt muscles, back muscles and stretching the muscles in front of the hip, exercises that are included in the active aging bootie barre class, address these common issues.

 

Strong Glutes help Prevent Injuries.

Building strong gluteal muscles (the focus of “bootie barre”) can help you avoid injury as well as recover from injury to your low back, hips, knees, and ankles by creating better alignment and stability.  As an example, when squatting sometimes people will cave one knee in towards midline instead of tracking the knee over the foot. That’s often a result of weak gluteal muscles on that side. This is a common dysfunctional pattern known as “dynamic valgus” and it can be prevented with strong gluteal and hip muscles. Proper hip, knee, foot alignment is cued regularly during our bootie barre class.

Strong Glutes Improve Balance

Who remembers those old commercials “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  Though people joked about it, those commercials depicted a real and serious situation.  Maybe it’s not an issue for you currently but having strong glutes now means you’ll have a strong foundation to propel yourself when walking, have the stability in your pelvis to balance on one leg, get in and out of your vehicle, or shower with ease and if you fall, “you Will be able to get up”!  This all translates to better long-term quality of life.

 

Strong Glutes Enhance Bone Density in the Hips and Pelvis

Strength training is the best way to improve localized bone density. This happens when muscle tissue tugs on your bones during strength training. By building up the muscles around your pelvis (your glutes) as we do in class, you are improving your muscle and bone strength as well as the stability of your entire pelvis and hips.

 

 

Strong Gluts are Aesthetically Appealing

Though not the most important reason, this is often the primary reason people start working on their glutes. It’s a valid goal to have to keep our pants from sliding down and if chasing a perky butt is your goal, I say go for it!

This class is targeted for you, in the last and best third of your life, to get strong safely and efficiently.

As a physical therapist, I ensure that you’re not using your low back to lift your leg behind you (a common error).  I design exercises that work all ranges of motion of the hip and stimulate both slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers found in your glutes.  And, we get it all done in just 30 time-efficient minutes!  Allow me to be your guide to lift your tush and safely challenge your limits.

Sign up for the Active Aging Bootie Barre Class every Wednesday at 11:30 PM PST. Can’t make that time? Not a problem. You can purchase the class and I can send you a recording to do at your convenience!

Click here for a preview of some Active Aging Bootie Barre Moves!

 

 

 

Written by Teresa Maldonado Marchok, MPT

Physical Therapist,  Pilates Teacher, Aging Strong Activist, Educator, and lifelong learner.   www.BoneSmartPilates.com

 

 

References

BoneSmart Pilates Youtube channel Gluteal Amnesia aka Dead Butt Syndrome  https://youtu.be/YevqgbmS4K8

Buckthorpe M, Stride M, Villa FD. ASSESSING AND TREATING GLUTEUS MAXIMUS WEAKNESS — A CLINICAL COMMENTARYInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(4):655–669.

Dunsky A. The Effect of Balance and Coordination Exercises on Quality of Life in Older Adults: A Mini-Review. Front Aging Neurosci. 2019;11:318. Published 2019 Nov 15. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00318