"The seventy five year olds in my class are teaching me a thing or two, and I am no longer caught by surprise when someone tells me their age and they look so much younger. Of course they do! They exercise!"
What about the rest of the people out there?
As a trainer and class instructor in Los Angeles, I have had many clients of a certain caliber. They are young, they are healthy (at least physically) and they have few maladies that would cause pain when they exercise. I began to wonder…"what about the rest of the people out there"?
My mother is sixty -two. She has always been in amazing shape. When we go on vacation, I usually beg someone to accompany us, like my dad, so that we can take turns "walking her". She went rock climbing the morning of my wisdom teeth operation and she can do as many push ups as I can. I have always been extremely proud of her.
Now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she was recently told she had osteoporosis. Luckily since she had been lifting weights, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been -- but it was still there. She was experiencing pain in her back and in various other areas.
That's when I began to think about putting together a new program for her. On my next visit, I put my mom on a weight-training program which required her to work each body part twice a week. She was to work twice a week for upper body and twice for lower. One day of each would be heavier weights with fewer repetitions, and one would be lighter weight with heavier repetitions.
Weight Lifting Doesn't Necessarily Make You Bigger
Now, before we go on, I feel it is necessary to address one of the most common misconceptions about lifting weights. Will heavy weights make me bigger? No! You see, if it were that easy. men would not take steroids. Most women, and even many men, do not have enough testosterone to "get big". It just doesn't happen. I am a perfect example. I use 50-pound dumbbells for the dumbbell chest press and I use 60 pounds on each side for squats and I am by no means "big". I also have many clients who have seen the light on this subject so I just had to throw that out there!
Now back to mom. She started to do more stretching before and after her workouts and I put her on the Reebok core board to help her with her posture and balance. She began to see some real improvements not just in her strength and fitness level but she was also experiencing less pain. I asked her if she wanted to start taking some classes and she told me she would love to but the classes were so intimidating and loud that she did not want to go. I began to think again…"What about the rest of the people out there?"
I began taking my mom through her own class filled with low music, uncomplicated cardio moves consisting of walking forward and back, side to side and dancing on her own a little bit. The most important thing I told her was "If it hurts don't do it!" She just kept getting better and better and we even did a video together!
Mellow Movement Was Born
When I returned to Los Angeles, I decided to try to tempt the over sixty group into a class setting. (Fifty was a bit young but I allowed them in too) I call the class, Mellow Movement. We began the class with rhythmic warm up, swinging our arms side to side with the music playing in the background but not overtaking the class. I am always reminding everyone to check his or her posture. There are so many men and women out there who have terrible posture! So many pains in the back and neck can be easily remedied just by fixing that posture.
We keep up the movement for about twenty minutes and then we take a heart rate check. After cooling down. We take our weights and do chest work, triceps, shoulders, biceps, legs, and butt. We even added in some kegel exercises, which is great for incontinence. Class has about ten minutes of abdominal work and back strengthening exercises all done at their own pace. The class ends with about ten minutes of stretches for the back, shoulders and neck, which are high-tension areas.
This class is very different in the fact that every move is designed for bodies that need strength but gentleness. Every move is designed to help the areas that weaken most as we grow older.
So for those of you out there who think you are past the point where you can exercise I would like to share with you that people in their seventies are doing this work out and so can you.
Here Are Some Exercises That May Work For Your Seniors
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, begin by taking a deep breath in through the nose and bring the arms around and up towards the top of your head, , exhaling, clasp the hands together over the head and bring in front of the chest. Press gently pout with your hands. This opens up the upper back and relieves some of the tension there. Hold that stretch for about fifteen to thirty seconds and keep the breathing going.
Standing Leg Extension
This is a great exercise for balance, core strength and thighs. Stand straight with the abdominals pulled in and the posture lifted. If you need extra balance, feel free to hold onto something or touch the wall but make sure that you are not putting all of your weight onto it. You really want to focus on balance and become more proficient at it. The standing leg should be slightly bent so that it is not locked back. The working leg is lifted at a ninety-degree angle off the floor. The higher you can lift your leg the more you will engage your core but try not to lift so high that you lose your posture and begin to lean! Slowly extend the leg forward into a semi straight leg and bring back. You should feel this primarily in the thighs but remember you are working many other things as well! Do this slowly 10 to 15 times on each side, rest and repeat if you are able.
Wall Assisted Push Up
Think you or your clients are too old for a push up? Think again. There are many different ways to accomplish a push up and just as many benefits. This is a great upper body strengthener.
Place feet slightly apart and about a foot away from the wall. Palms are against the wall. Let your body almost fall into the wall as your palms press in until your face is about an inch away from the wall. Feet are in the same place. Your chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps will be working to hold you in this position. slowly, working the negative, press yourself back to the beginning position until arms are almost straight. Repeat 5 to 10 times
Towel Assisted Abdominal Crunch
One of my client's favorites! Many people feel pain in the neck when they attempt to work the abdominals. Take a towel and place it flat underneath you. Be sure there is enough under you that you can support your head with it. Take hold of each corner by your head, make a fist distance between your chin and your neck, lift your head with the towel and your abdominals, and exhale your breath as you go up. Hold that for about 5 seconds, release and repeat 5 to 15 times.
These are just three of the many exercises that can be done anywhere. They build strength in the weak areas and they are easy on the body. I had one client who told me that she is now able to get into her son's SUV without assistance. It's the little things like that we are looking for in the older set of exercisers. They are smart, they do it for the health benefits! Anyone can do them at any age! The seventy five year olds in my class are teaching me a thing or two, and I am no longer caught by surprise when someone tells me their age and they look so much younger. Of course they do! They exercise! Have fun!
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