Functional Fitness As Older Adults
Tania Tetrault Vrga Winnipeg Free Pres 2017-07-12 16:15:03
If you want to live a long, healthy life, your No. 1 fitness priority should be mobility.
Mobility is the ability to move freely. This boils down to a combination of strength, flexibility, and skill.
I’ve worked with many clients in their 60s and 70s and some of them have actually told me that their doctors instructed them to do nothing but walk and take their medicine. This is unfortunate because they are missing out on the most important part of fitness, which is learning or relearning to move well so that they can stay healthy and mobile for years to come.
Many older adults can do the same types of exercise as their younger counterparts. Just like younger athletes, it is important for older athletes to keep their sleep and nutrition dialed in. However, seniors need to emphasize joint mobility, muscle mass, and cognitive skills even more, as these decline dramatically as we age.
To reduce pain and the incidence of injury, we choose strength exercises that have less impact on the joints but still use the entire body, to facilitate increased muscle mass and bone density.
Many older adults have health conditions that cause them to shy away from strength training, but when done correctly, full-body movements with free weights can do wonders for just about anyone, including olders adults. We lose a tremendous amount of muscle mass as we age and it is this muscle mass that prevents us from withering away.
It is also important for the program to include exercises that keep the joints healthy and muscles supple. Flexibility strategies, like stretching and soft tissue work, help us increase or maintain range of motion as we age, so that we can get around better and recover quickly from accidents, injuries, and illness. Joint mobility exercises keep our joints well lubricated and ready to handle day-to-day stress and the wear and tear of moving around.
The last component is using fitness to learn new skills and stay sharp. I like teaching older clients movements that make them think, rather than boring repetitive exercise.
We choose movements that challenge the senses: agility drills, single arm or single leg movements for balance, and complex full body movements that require co-ordination. To keep the mind sharp it’s important to eat well and sleep well, and this should be part of any fitness program for older adults.
So instead of blaming aches and pains on age, do something about it. Instead of investing in hair dye and wrinkle cream, learn to use exercise to look better and live longer.