Maintaining mobility and independence as long as possible in one of the main goals for an active older adult. Clinical studies report that an exercise program can slow the progress of age-related conditions like osteoporosis, sarcopenia and may even contribute to delayed onset of mental health issues like Alzheimer’s. By implementing Pilates and barre type exercises can help improve posture, alignment and stabilization for a strong and mobile body with good balance, imperative for preventing falls.
1) TA Breathing:
Start by standing with feet hip distance apart, knees softly bent and shoulders stacked over hips. Press your shoulders away from ears to lengthen your neck – think like you are growing tail from head to tail. Begin to inhale through your nose and let the sides of the lower ribs expand with air without letting your ribcage splay apart or shoulders rise up. Begin to exhale through pursed lips and feel the triangle area between the hip points and pubic bone pull back towards your spine – like you are trying to zip up tight pants. You should feel the abdominal wall squeeze tight around the midsection (between the ribs and hip bones) like a corset lacing up tightly.
2) Warm Up Thoroughly:
Warming up is important because it circulates the blood and oxygen, preparing the muscles, joints and brain for an effective workout. Begin marching in place and then graduate to lifting the knees to a comfortable height for several minutes. Then incorporate side stepping. This will warm-up the adductors and abductors and offer a balance challenge.
3) Pitched Fly:
It is important to strengthen the upper back to improve posture which directly relates to balance. Use an appropriate set of hand weights (approximately 3 – 6 lbs). Soften knees and engage the transverse abdominal wall (keep your corset tight for lower back support) as you pitch forward at the hip joint – keeping spine long and not rounding forward. Softly bend elbows like you are hugging a tree. Begin to exhale as you open your arms out to the sides of your shoulders. Feel the sensation of trying to crack a nut in between the shoulder blades without letting the shoulders creep up to the ears. Inhale to return.
4) Internal and External Rotation:
Tie a theraband on to a door handle that is close to your hip height. Stand a few feet away from the door (side of hip facing doorknob) and grab one end of the band with your inside hand. Place elbow at the waistline with your forearm facing front. Exhale as you close your forearm over your waistline and inhale to open back out. This is internal rotation. Change the band to the opposite hand and repeat the exercise facing the same way for external rotation. Make sure to control the band as you open and close – not letting the band pop back. Also move from the shoulder socket without twisting your pelvis or shoulder to help open and close the band. You may stand closer to the door or further away for more of a challenge.
5) Side Leg Lift:
Falls are one of the biggest concerns for older adults so improving your balance is critical. The abductor and adductor muscles that surround the hip can become underutilized because we don’t use them as much in our daily activities but they play a critical role in balance. Soften your knees and lean into a sturdy surface like a countertop with your forearm. Press your shoulder down away from your ear while not letting you rib cage collapse towards the floor. Exhale as you lift your outside leg away from the body. Flex your foot and feel energy out your heel as you rotate your heel to the ceiling without letting your pelvis roll forward – keep your hip bones stacked on top of one another. Inhale to return.
6) Abductor Squeeze:
Sit tall on a chair – preferably one without a cushioned bottom so you don’t collapse in the pelvis. Place a playground ball or a towel between your knees. Exhale and squeeze the ball tight for 3, 2, 1 hold and then inhale to release the squeeze.
7) Glute Kick Back:
This exercise will help stabilize the hips so you will feel a burn sensation in the supporting leg and the leg that is in the air. Begin by leaning into a countertop with your forearms and bend both knees. Pull lower belly back to spine to support your lower back. Lift one leg off the floor to make a 90 degree angle behind the hip. Hold this shape and flex your foot and push back slowly on the exhale (like you are pressing the sole of your foot in a bed of quicksand and without losing the stability of the pelvis and the slight tuck). Inhale to return.
This exercise will strengthen the hip muscles, the quadriceps, inner thighs and challenge posture and balance. Hold onto a sturdy surface and place heels together and toes open 2” – 3” like a small slice of pie. Feel the rotation coming from the hip socket by squeezing the inner thighs and engaging the hip muscles spiraling back, creating the feeling of a lift happening up underneath the cheeks. Engage the quadriceps high off of the knee cap – you can feel this by lengthening the back of the knee where it feels supported but not jammed back or locked in the joint. Engage navel to spine so the pelvis remains neutral and not tucked or jammed under with your shoulders directly over the hips and the ribcage knitted together. Maintaining this perfect form begin to exhale as you raise the heels off the ground and lower with control – not collapsing or popping up. For a balance challenge take your hands off your sturdy surface and place them in a prayer position at your sternum.
9) Wrist Rolls and Lifts:
The wrist is a small joint and can be one of the first places you notice weakness as you age. Begin to roll your wrists in a circular motion in both directions. Then tie a theraband on a sturdy surface like a doorknob. Grab both ends of the bands in your hands and step away from the door so there is tension on the band. Place your elbows at your waistline with palms facing ceiling. Curl your wrists toward your forearms without letting anything else move and return. Then flare your wrist open and close – as if you were opening a jar upside down. Change your grip facing the floor and repeat the same motions to work the top of the wrists.
10) Standing Push Up:
Push ups are great for strengthening the core, stabilizing the shoulders and building chest strength. However, for many older adults the full body weight on wrists can become stressful. A modified version can give you the same benefits without the strain on the wrist joint. Lean into a wall with your hands wider than shoulder distance so that your body make a straight line from shoulders to ankles- engage your core to support your pelvis and lower back. Press shoulders down away from ears and broaden your collar bone. Holding a perfect straight line with your core engaged inhale as you bend your elbows and lead your chest towards the wall and then exhale to return.