July 29th 2015
Senior fit-izens: how to stay fit, active and strong in your eighties
August 5th 2015
We asked the experts for their top senior fitness tips for getting fighting fit in your eighties
Ageing can take its toll on joints, bones and overall mobility, but with the advice of some of the top trainers around, you can look forward to becoming the fittest grandparent on the block. Read on to find out how to give your grandkids a run for their money…
What should I look to address?
According to fitness expert James Osborn, it’s important for people to focus on keeping joints mobile and staying strong at this age. He advises being mindful of the fact that balance and reaction speed decrease over time and that one of your main fitness aims should be to increase your proprioception (i.e. the body’s awareness of where various limbs are at any one time and the strength applied).
Ronnie Kublova, Master Trainer at Powervibe Fitness Studio and fitness pro Mollie Millington, point out that it's never too late to get fit, however they do advise having a physical exam with your GP before beginning any fitness regime. They also stress the importance of being active in your earlier years, as doing so will maintain your flexibility, reduce pain caused by arthritis, strengthen your joints, prevent diseases like Type II diabetes, and increase your bone density (helping you avoid brittle bones and subsequent breaks).
According to Ronnie and Mollie, most adults in this age range are training for functionality and focus on exercises that are targeted at tasks that need to be done every day - such as getting out of a chair, carrying groceries, reaching for things on a shelf, posture improvement and climbing stairs. They suggest trying to keep moving every day rather than becoming sedentary. They recommend the following for getting active, whether you’re a beginner or someone who’s no stranger to the gym:
Walking clubs: These allow you to be social while exercising and enjoying the outdoors.
Swiss balls: If you want to keep it indoors, Swiss balls are a fantastic tool in developing balance and stability.
Aquarobics: Aquarobics is low impact and the water also offers some resistance. Warmer pool temperatures can be soothing to people with arthritic joints.
Power Plate classes: Power Plate classes have many benefits and are a great tool for elderly clients when used for stretching and massaging. This will help to increase flexibility and circulation. Incorporating some light exercises (such as bicep curls, lateral raises, and bent over rows) will help with muscle strength. They recommend though avoiding Power Plate classes if you have a pacemaker or if you currently have active cancer cells.
James’s top tips
James recommends low impact, but effective exercises such as swimming, cycling (preferably using an exercise bike) and jogging in order to kick-start the metabolism and to keep hearts and lungs healthy.
He also suggests resistance training and chair exercises such as squats and lunges to increase both bone strength and lean muscle mass. “Squats in particular are a superb full body exercise. I recommend that these are done with a chair behind the person to ensure that they don’t fall over when sitting back into the squat position. As soon as their glutes touch the chair they should stand back up. This takes the ‘fear factor’ out and significantly reduces the risk of this exercise.”
Avoid thinking that classes such as spinning are just for the young - he points out that if you’ve been active all of your life you should feel free to join in, just ensure that you go at your own speed.
How much exercise should you aim to do per week? James suggests trying to exercise 2-3 times to keep fitness levels up for everyday tasks such as playing with grandchildren, climbing stairs and running errands.
What should you avoid?
Ronnie and Mollie point out that there are no clear-cut rules based on age, but do suggest slowing it down and avoiding activities that involve quick, high-impact movements and possible contact (such as team sports like football, volleyball and rugby), which might pose a risk if reflexes are slow or bones are brittle.
The final word
If you’re struggling to motivate yourself or to find something that you’ll stick to, keep trying out new and different activities (while also keeping to the guidelines our experts have outlined above) and you’re bound to find something that works for you.
As Ronnie and Mollie point out: “Most importantly, find something you enjoy to ensure you will do it again!” I think we can all agree that that’s one mantra that will make exercise a far more appealing prospect.