Seated Exercise for the Elderly
The popular image of sport and fitness is all too often encapsulated in the raw physicality of a high-energy studio class such as BodyPump. No wonder those of an advanced age shy away from exercise, fearing that they will only sustain an injury or place too much strain on their cardiovascular system. But the truth is that routines come in many different forms and levels of intensity. Indeed, there are a number that can be executed from the relevant comfort of a chair. These exercises will not only improve circulation, but also increase muscle tone and reduce the loss of bone mass, thereby making the body stronger and more efficient.
Any session should begin with a warm up, stretching and moving both the arms and legs in smooth, rhythmic movements. Loosen the neck by gently rolling the head from side to side, and think about how you are breathing. It should be controlled, deep and be centred in the diaphragm, rather than shallow and emanating from the chest. This warm-up routine will provide a sound basis for a safe, controlled workout and should be complemented by a similarly structured warm-down routine. Do not finish an exercise session and immediately leap up from the chair, as this is not allowing your body to move back down the gears to its normal, resting state. Use a high-backed chair to give support, but one with no arms to allow freedom of movement at the sides of the body.
In terms of the upper body, begin with simple three-stage arm movements, from the resting position below each hip, curling up onto the shoulders and then up and above the head before repeating the drill on the downward movement. Then work both the shoulders and chest by pushing the arms above the head from a starting position with the hands to the side and level with the shoulders. From this same position with the palms flat, the shoulders, upper arms and chest can be worked by pushing out away from the body in a movement similar to a press-up.
Be patient and the results will come
Begin with two or three repetitions for each routine, building slowly as you become stronger. On no account try to push yourself too hard, too quickly - be patient and the results will come. When working the upper body, remember to keep breathing from the diaphragm. You will feel the pull on the muscles of the stomach and lower back. This will help strengthen your “core”, bringing greater stability. As you become stronger, the resistance for individual routines can be increased by the use of small hand weights.In the area of the hips, flexibility can be encouraged by extending the arms out in front of the body, then turning the trunk gently first to the right, allowing more of your weight to rest on the right buttock, then repeating the drill on the left side.
Work the quadriceps
For the lower body, gentle leg raises, ideally working up to the point when you can raise them, one at a time, at a 90-degree angle to your trunk, will help work the quadriceps (the big muscle at the front of each thigh). Raising the thigh up and towards you while bending the knee in the process will bring more positive results. To work the calf muscles, push down with your toes and raise your heel. You will feel the gentle pull on the back of each leg. Working the front of the lower leg can be achieved by raising each one off the ground and pulling your toes back towards you, repeating each crunch five times before lowering the leg again to a resting position. Ankle swivels, completed by raising the foot off the ground and rotating your foot, are another useful drill.
It is always advisable to complete any exercise routines under supervision, either with an individual trainer or as part of a group. The latter can be great fun, broadening your social horizons while working on your fitness. It is also essential to consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise. He or she will be able to advise on what will be beneficial, depending on your state of health.
Every health professional realises the benefits exercise can bring, so don’t be afraid to approach them. They are sure to be positive, and welcome your efforts to improve both mind and body. Remember, if you're fit enough, you’re never too old to work out.