By Oris Martin, Acts Fitness Trainer
While there are many general recommendations out there in the fitness industry, remember that not all are specific to senior fitness. Seniors should seek a fitness professional who specializes in older adults when exploring exercises for seniors and a regular fitness regiment.
For example, The American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal recently published an article titled “Maximal results with minimal investment, twelve exercises in 7 minutes – that’s all you need.” It immediately went viral, with many news outlets reprinting and broadcasting the surprising findings. According to The Journal, research by exercise physiologists shows that it is possible to condense your cardio and strength training routine into a series of twelve high-intensity exercises using only body weight; with no more than a 10-second break between each exercise.
Is it possible to do all the exercise you need to do in only 7 minutes? While this might be likely for younger people, I encourage seniors to adopt modified versions of the exercises mentioned in The Journal to avoid injury, and ensure continued independence and good health. The following can be done at home with no need for special equipment:
1. Toe Stand (also called heel raises) – Strengthens calves and ankles: Stand behind a sturdy chair or at the kitchen counter, feet shoulder width apart, holding on for balance. Breathe out and lift your heels off the floor standing on tip toes. Breathe in and slowly lower your heels.
2. Single Leg Stand – Improves balance: Stand upright behind a sturdy chair or kitchen counter and hold on for balance. Standing as tall as possible, slightly bend one knee (supporting leg) and lift the other leg off the floor. Hold position for the count of ten, then return to starting position and repeat with the other leg. Alternate until you have done 8-15 repetitions with each leg. As you progress, you will notice that you feel more stable so try holding the counter with just fingers, then advancing to using fewer fingers and finally hands free.
3. Side Leg Raises – Strengthens hips, thighs and buttocks: Stand behind a sturdy chair or at the kitchen counter, holding on for balance, with feet slightly apart. Breathe out and slowly lift leg out to the side, then breathe in as you slowly return to starting position. Perform exercise 10-15 times on each leg.
4. Leg Extension – Strengthens thighs and knees: Sit upright with your back supported on a straight back chair. Lift your heels off the floor. Place a rolled up towel under one knee. Exhale and slowly lift that leg off the floor, extended in front of you, foot flexed with toes pointed toward the ceiling. Hold position for one second, then exhale and lower leg. Repeat 10-15 times with each leg.
5. Marching in Place – Improves function of the heart and lungs: (Be sure that you’re wearing closed-toe supportive shoes for this exercise.) Stand behind a straight back chair or at the kitchen counter for support and march in place; lifting knees as high as you can. Go at a pace that is comfortable for you, but you should feel an increase in your breathing and heart rate. Increase your time until you can do this for 10 minutes.
6. Double Knee Stretch – Stretches hamstrings and lower back: Lie on your back in bed. Bend knees and with feet on the bed, reach both hands forward, grasp behind knees and bring both knees toward your chest. Hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat 3 - 5 times.
7. Shoulder Rotation – Stretches shoulder muscles; improves posture: Lie flat on your back in bed, with a pillow under your head and legs. If your back bothers you in this position, roll a towel and place under your knees. Extend both arms out to the side away from your torso. Bend your elbows so that your hands are pointing toward the ceiling. Keeping your elbows on the bed, Let your arm drop backward toward your head until you feel a stretch. Bring arms back so that they are pointing to the ceiling again, then drop them forward, palms facing down. Hold each position for 10-30 seconds. Alternate between going backward and forward. Repeat 3-5 times.
Keep in mind that apart from the double knee stretch and the shoulder rotation, which are stretches, the aforementioned exercises do not need to be done every day, but instead 2-3 times per week.
Although I’ve recommended doing 10-15 repetitions for most exercises, at the beginning you may be only able to do 4-6. Rest assured that if you keep up this regimen, you will be able to gradually increase the number of repetitions you do, leading to improved strength, flexibility and balance.
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