THIS article is inspired by some of our clients who have been pushing and progressing their exercise even up until the legal age of retirement. When you’re dealing with the elderly in exercise, there are either two recourses: Either we baby them or we push them to their capacity—in a safe manner. I would always go for the latter because as they say, if you do not use it, you lose it. As a result of aging, we lose functional capacity, muscular density, functional range of motion and general conditioning. Here are some strategies one could employ when dealing with the elderly:
The ground is your friend. Work on the ground. Getting close to the ground helps with proprioception and reflexive stability. It’s also a fail-proof way to get stronger in a safe manner.
Work on regressions. While the elderly might be coming from periods of inactivity, you can always work on exercise regressions that do not require as much balance and load to start with.
Functional flexibility is key. The key word is “functional.” Make sure the range of motion acquired is something they can work through on their own and actively. As flexibility decreases with age, there is all the more reason to maintain and restore range of motion.
Do not forget to progress. All too often, we fall into the trap of sticking to the same routine while not progressing the volume and intensity of the exercise. Just because we age doesn’t mean there is no room for progression in our exercise. Although it should be done cautiously, elderly individuals can still progress their strength and work capacity.
Just keep on moving. I’ve always been enamored with elderly individuals in China, Japan and Taiwan who are still pretty active despite their age. The key? Use it so you do not lose it. Walking seems to really help as various studies show that people who walk more live longer lives. Also, taking up a hobby that requires movement seems to be beneficial. An example is gardening as studies also have shown that elderly individuals who do gardening activities every day live longer than peers who do not engage in that activity.