Effective Exercises for the Elderly
Taking a fall is one of the greatest risks to the health of the elderly, and they can happen all too easily, especially if you're not in good physical shape. Basic, daily exercises that you can do in your own home are convenient ways of ensuring your body remains strong and agile as your body ages. Plus, as you get more confident, with the help of a physiotherapist, a doctor or an exercise instructor, you can create a program of movements that works for your body, whatever the current needs may be.
Bad posture can lead to problems with your back, ribs, digestion and lungs, and exercising with bad posture can lead to problems, too, which means it's important to get this right, first and foremost. Unsure how straight you currently stand? Let's do a test to find out how good your posture really is:
- Sit on a straight-back chair with both hands under your buttocks.
- Check to see if you are you balanced on both sides by lengthening your spine to the left and the right.
- Sit up straighter, still (perhaps imagine a piece of string is pulling you up to the ceiling).
- Lift your ribs slightly and make sure your shoulders are not raised or tense. They should be back and down with your chest out.
- Place your index finger on your chin and push it back towards your neck, which allows your cervical spine to find a more neutral position
If you found any of these stages particularly challenging or painful, seek the advice of your doctor. If not, you now understand how good posture feels.
Here is a great exercise to improve posture and to strengthen your buttock and pelvic muscles:
- Stand with your back flat against a wall. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your knees soft.
- Place one hand behind your lower back (where the natural curve is). Try flattening your lower back once more so you feel slight pressure on your hand.
- Relax then repeat steps one and two for nine times. The exercise can also be amended for a seated position.
- To make it more challenging, stand sideways in front of a full-length mirror and flatten and relax your lower back so you can see your pelvis rotating backward and forward.
As well as being your body's most basic function, the way you breathe in and out can also affect your mood, your sleep, your strength and your stamina. And, once you get your breathing right, you can work on strengthening your core, which is crucial for back and upper body strength. A process known as 'Complete Breathing' can be a great way of focusing your mind on how you breathe, and is very simple to do:
- Sit on a straight-back chair and close your eyes. Exhale slowly.
- Now inhale slowly and allow your stomach muscles to relax. (Notice how your stomach expands as your lungs fill with air.)
- Continue breathing in until you feel your chest expand. Hold that breath for a moment and exhale slowly.
- Draw your stomach in to feel the last bit of air as it leaves your lungs.
- Relax, and then repeat the process for the next five minutes.
Upper Body Strength
Chair dips are a brilliantly straightforward way of strengthening your arm muscles with low impact:
- Sit in a straight-back chair with armrests. Place both feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.
- Lean forward slightly whilst keeping your back and shoulders straight.
- Take hold of the arms of the chair with your hands facing forward. Breathe in slowly.
- As you breathe out, use your arms to push your body slowly off the chair, making sure your elbows extend behind you.
- Remain in this position for between 1 and 10 seconds (depending on how you feel).
- As you lower yourself down again, breathe out slowly through your mouth.
- Take a rest then repeat the above steps between 10 and 15 times.
Lower Body Strength
Seated leg straightening exercises are great for increasing the strength in your thighs and your core:
- Sit far back on a straight-back chair so that just the balls of your feet and the toes are resting on the floor.
- Place a rolled towel or a small cushion at the edge of the chair underneath your thighs for support. Inhale once, slowly.
- As you breathe out, slowly extend one leg in front of you as straight as possible without locking your knee.
- Flex your foot so the toes are pointing up to the ceiling. Maintain this position for between one and 10 seconds.
- Slowly breathe in as you carefully lower your leg back down.
- Repeat these steps another 10 to 15 times with the same leg before repeating with the other leg. (Make sure you do an equal amount on each side).