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Sean McCawley

Sean McCawley 

Aging affects our daily functions. As age progresses, common factors the general population should competently be able to live independently, manipulate moderately weighted objects with their upper body, and stand up from being on the ground. Bones and joints degenerate as arthritis develops.

Perhaps after retirement, physical activities that were performed during working years aren’t as prevalent. This leads to muscles, bones, joints, and energy systems that were commonly used to become dormant. The results of retirement could also contribute to a lack of motivation to get up at reasonable hours to perform tasks during the hours of the day we initially worked. These can all lead to decreases in strength, coordination, and balance effecting adults in the advanced age population to live a strong and independent life in their post-retirement years.

A common phrase we here from our personal training clients in the advanced age population is, “Getting up from the floor kills me!” or “I played with my grandkids the other day, and it took everything I had to stand back up.”

To add to this, when we ask our clients to lay down flat on their back to perform supine exercises, their eyes open up in fear as if we just asked them to jump into a volcano. One of the most challenging tasks to accomplish when growing older is to stand up from the floor. This should be something that 90% of the population should always be able to do.

Interacting with grandkids is prevalent as we grow older. Our kids usually have kids. When they invite you over, guess who wants to hang out with grandma and grandpa? Let’s not forget that everything in their world is about 2 to 3 feet in height. If we want to interact with our grandkids, we need to be able to enter their world by getting down and up off of the ground efficiently and pain free.

Other functional activities that we should be able to be perform independently is picking up moving objects. Taking plates out of cupboards overhead and efficiently placing them around the kitchen is a tactic that is affected by deficits in strength as we age. Hauling groceries in and out of our cars is another activity directly affected by the distraction of weak hand grip strength or lower back pain.

Along with getting up from the ground, the other most important hobby about staying busy in the post retirement years can hindered as well, our hobbies. The ability to tinker on crafts, garden in the yard, or walk to the coffee shop to socialize with friends can all be slowed down by weakness and pain due to inactivity as we age. However, these sub-optimal conditions related with advancements in age can all be cured.

The first place we always start when coaching our personal training clients in Napa is general strength of the primary movers of the body. These regions include compound lower body, upper body pushing, upper body pulling, and core movements. Developing strength in these areas alleviate symptoms mentioned at the beginning of this article after the first 30 days of a concentrated strength and conditioning program. A common place to start when helping older clients fend off age is the hip and core exercises. The joints and muscles of the hips control one’s ability to move, have balance, and yield sufficient coordination when walking.

Additionally, the hips help provide sufficient posture as we get up and down out of chairs, get in and out of cars, and stand up from the floor. A go-to exercise to for hip and lower extremity strength is the common squat. To practice squatting, we start our clients off with box squats. This is an exercise where the participant squats down until their bottom rests on a box and then pushes their heels in the ground and stands up. This is an easy exercise that can be performed at home to help strengthen the lower body performing 10 repetitions every day using a chair.

Another focus of strength for an aging population is upper body strength. The dreaded task of getting up and down off the ground will more than likely pose a challenge for most of us as we age. However, we should all be able to roll onto our sides and post up onto to our elbow from laying on our backs. From there, we can either get up to our knees or use an object to help us up.

Insufficient upper body strength creates fear at the thought of such a task. A simple and effective exercise to improve upper body strength is the simple plank. Simply find an inclined object such as countertop and hold the plank position for 30 seconds. Performing this at least 4 times per week will support upper body strength. This will assist in accomplishing more tasks throughout the day.

Functional strength for gripping, interacting in hobbies and crafts, and standing up from the floor are tasks we should all be able to do as we age. If we want to independently be able to perform these functions, make sure to take some time out to not only move more, but to strengthen the entire body for the long run.

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Sean McCawley, the founder and owner of Napa Tenacious Fitness in Napa, welcomes questions and comments. Reach him at 707-287-2727, napatenacious@gmail.com or visit the website napatenaciousfitness.com.

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