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Workouts and Exercises for Seniors

3-Step Workout for Life Program

They say that man is made up of habits. And so, if we wish to live longer, one must go beyond his sedentary lifestyle and exercise more.

This saying is particularly true especially for older adults. They are not getting any younger, but this does not mean they can’t do good exercise anymore. It is only a matter of choosing the right exercise program for them.

What type of exercise is the best then? When asked this question we often think of that exercise which doesn’t feel like it is exercise at all. And that is primarily what our grandma and grandpa would want especially that moving a muscle could be challenging for them. This is because as we age our muscle strength also declines. Thus, aging makes us more susceptible to a sedentary lifestyle.

We can always do something about this especially for our grandparents who wish to do their everyday tasks and home chores independently. By discovering this new exercise program, we can make this wish possible. We can help them fend for themselves and avoid the risk of being put in nursing homes.

It is best for families who wish to stay together and avoid inevitable circumstances in which they will be forced for their older loved ones to be separated from them. No one likes that type of stories. Therefore, exercising and taking good care of ourselves can be the happy journey we will need for the happy endings we want for our family members.

The ideal form of exercise that best suits our grandma and grandpa involves an incorporation of the usual resistance exercise routines to their daily living activities. And this is what the 3-Step Workout for Life program developed by Chiung-ju Liu at the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis is all about. She is an assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in the said universities.

Liu has a background in occupational therapy, and this has led her to observe and believe that to help older people in their daily living activities, they need more than the usual resistance exercise routines being practiced by most people. She added that if people want to help the older community become independent in doing their tasks, just the usual exercise is not efficient enough.

This is why she created the 10-week exercise program also known as the “3-Step Workout for Life” that turns the homes of older people into age-appropriate gyms. In this program, older people perform exercises that are about their daily living activities.

The program starts with the usual resistance exercise like bicep curls. The second stage now involves linking that resistance exercise to daily living activities. The third stage then is increasing the level of challenge in performing those daily living activities like having the older people walk longer distance or at a different pace.

After the 10-week program, a study was conducted by Liu showing that at the end of the 3-Step Workout for Life program has similar results to that of the 10 week resistance only exercise program. However, the difference is that older adults have retained the benefits of the 3-step Workout for Life program than the resistance exercise only program after being tested six months later. The benefits of the former were shown to have decreased over the six months period.

Liu is now working with the Crestwood Village, a senior-living community on the south side of Indianapolis. They will try to find out if the 3-Step Workout for Life program can be scaled to larger groups of older people. Crestwood Village, it’s health fitness staff is also considering incorporating the said program into the other fitness programs being offered there.

The brighter side of this study is in knowing how this program is very practical in its essence and can easily be reenacted at home. If you can’t afford this particular program, you can always develop your own by following or even adding to your own schedule of daily living activities. Watering the plants, walking the dog, doing errands are just some of the daily routines we do that we can choose to do with a better attitude if we think of them as exercise. If you get bored with your usual routine, you can always find ways to level it up as what the actual 3-Step Workout for life program does in its third stage. But of course, always exercise caution. Too much of everything is just as bad as too little.

The idea of monitoring the progress can be the difference and the actual benefit you might be missing in the actual 3-Step Workout for Life program but if you do the things you do every day then your body will not be missing any exercise it requires to function healthily. At the end of the day, we go back to the best form of exercise, and that is doing chores and all the things that we usually do every day.

The goal of developing new mechanisms to help our older family members or the aged population, in general, is to allow them not to be limited in seeking new things in life because of old age. A healthier older population also reflects how the young have been taking good care of the people who took care of them first.

Foam Rolling Exercises for Seniors

As we age, our muscles lose elasticity and our joints and connective tissues are always prone to tensions and muscle cramps. Even simple tasks and daily activities such as walking and climbing stairs become a painful feat. To relieve the pain we feel, experts suggest getting massages. However, going to a spa to get a massage can be expensive if you’re always suffering from chronic muscle pains. Good thing there’s a cheaper way to get rid of aches and pains: foam rollers.

What is Foam Rolling?

Foam rolling is a self-massaging technique using foam rollers. Athletes and physical therapists also call this secret technique a form of self-myofascial release, a fancy way of calling self-administered muscle pain relief.

You know the painful knot you feel in your shoulders after long periods of sitting at work or the sore muscles in your limbs and thighs after an intense workout? By using a foam roller, you can massage those aching muscles with the pressure of your own body weight. Those tiny muscle knots, which therapists call “trigger points”, harden muscle and affect its ability to function normally. Our muscles should be healthy, elastic and ready to perform in an instant to be considered normal. Once we feel pain, our body is telling us there’s something wrong with it.

Scientific Benefits of Foam Rolling

For years, foam rolling has just been a practice that’s been passed on from one practitioner to the other due to the experience-based relief it brings to them. There has been no scientific evidence to back up the technique.

However, in 2014, a research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the practice of foam rolling is not just some pseudoscience. Based on their results, self-myofascial release using foam rollers is a very effective treatment in reducing stiffness and improving blood circulation in muscles. With simple foam rolling exercise can also improve your range of motion and muscle recovery without losing muscle performance. Its other proven benefits include:

  • Fixes muscle imbalance
  • Relieves painful muscle spasm
  • Relieves fatigue after exercise
  • Promotes normal blood circulation
  • Makes joints flexible
  • Helps repair muscles
  • Improves quadriceps muscles’ range of motion
  • Boosts muscle recovery
  • Re-establishes proper movement patterns
  • Decreases chances of injury during any activity

How Foam Rolling Works

According to scientific explanations by experts, foam rolling targets two neural receptors in our body’s skeletal muscle tissue: the muscle spindle and the Golgi tendon organ.

Muscle Spindles are in charge of recording changes in the length of muscle fibers to our central nervous system. Once there’s a problem, it will reflexively shorten muscle tissues, often inducing pain to the body.

On the other hand, the Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO), which is sensitive to changes in the rate of tension, tends to contradict the muscle spindles. Once stimulated beyond its threshold, the GTO can prevent the muscle spindle’s reaction, which in turn decreases tension and pain in the muscle. Experts call this “autogenic inhibition”, our muscles’ capability to relax and restore itself after experiencing high tension.

In simple terms, it’s our muscles way of using pain to relieve pain. By applying your own weight against the foam roller to pressure the painful areas of your body such as upper back, legs, shoulder and arms, the tight knots in your muscles will break up and relax. It’s like tenderizing your muscles so that they will be soft and supple.

In foam rolling, you control your own body’s recovery process. Because you can feel exactly what’s happening in your body, you know the exact trigger points to focus on and know how much pressure your body can exert and handle.

Important Reminders When Doing Foam Rolling Exercises

  • Remember to breathe slowly. Avoid holding your breath throughout the whole process.
  • Start slowly. If you force it, your muscles will tighten causing more pain to already painful trigger points.
  • Roll slowly and properly. With your body weight, start applying enough pressure to a muscle group against the roller using the roller and your bodyweight for 20 to 60 seconds. Experts advise rolling not more than an inch per second.
  • Relax as much as possible. If you feel pain and your muscles tighten to the point that you cannot bear it, pause for a few seconds. Feel your muscle being released. After ten to thirty seconds, pain usually will lessen.
  • Do not force direct pressure on very painful areas. Instead, shift the foam roller and pressure on the surrounding muscle area before loosening the muscles in the whole area.
  • Remember foam rolling is not a pain tolerance test.
  • Avoid rolling over your bones, joints, neck and lower back.
  • Expect to feel sore a day after foam rolling.
  • Don’t forget to flush your system and fuel your muscles by drinking lots of water, sleeping well, and eating right.
  • Consult with your doctor if you have physical conditions.

How to Choose the Best Foam Roller

There are all sorts of foam rollers to choose from. But how can you know what’s right for you? Manufacturers of foam rollers have designed various types of rollers to soothe pain with pain. Depending on the materials of the rollers, its price usually ranges from $15 to $100.

To choose the best roller suited for you, you should first know your pain tolerance. The more grooves and bumps a foam roller has, the more painful it is. And the bigger its surface area, the more tolerable it is. If you’re just starting, try the softest there is on the market because foam rolling exercise really hurts.

Soft and round Foam Roller. The simplest foam roller is always the most trusty and best for all ages and levels, especially for those with little pain tolerance. Makers usually offer it in different sizes, from 12 inches up to 36 inches. Just be sure to choose a foam roller which can maintain its density after long use.

Textured foam roller. Athletes use this kind of foam roller to improve their performance and reduce pain after intensive practice and workouts. These kinds of roller usually have bumps and grooves all over meant for deep tissue massage. The deeper and larger the bumps, the more painful its. If you have longer pain tolerance and you can handle the bumps

Foam Rolling Stretches for Seniors

Now that you already have a foam roller that’s right for you, try out the following simple foam rolling exercises to get rid of aches and pains:

  1. Middle Back. For most, reaching our middle back muscles is very difficult. But with foam rollers, it can be as easy as pie. If you have a back problem, you should do this position very carefully or not at all. Put the roller horizontally behind your back. Put your shoulder blades on top of the roller to position your middle back against the roller. Interlace your fingers at the back of your head. Your knees should be bent and your feet flat on the floor. At this rate, your position should look like you’re about to do sit-ups but with a roller behind your back. While holding your head, look up and slowly lower your upper back like you’re lying down but not too much to reach the floor. Feel the roller pushing up against your mid-back muscles and can feel it releasing the tension in your back. You can try rolling a bit to massage your back a bit. Hold it for 1-2 minutes and slowly roll up to a sitting position.
  2. Spine. Stretching your spine with a foam roller is a good way of relieving muscle tension from a whole day of desk work. Using a foam roller, which is about one meter in length, lie on your back on top of it. Make sure the roller is parallel to your spine. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Lower your arms out to your side and raise them behind your head. Feel your shoulder blades squeeze as you lower your elbows to the floor. You can move to adjust to a position exactly right for you. Find your shoulder’s trigger points that need to be pressurized. Breathe regularly. Rest when you feel too much pain. Try to hold this position for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Hamstrings. If you spend every day seated behind your office desk, your hamstrings usually suffer from your weight. Slowly place the back of one of your thighs on top of the roller. Your hands should be flat on the floor behind your back supporting your upper body. Roll the foam under your thigh until you find the area of your hamstring that’s painful. Focus the pressure of your weight there for a minute. Do the same thing for the other hamstring. You can also do both hamstrings at the same time. Just cross your legs to find the trigger points of each hamstring.
  4. Calves. Exercise your calves by sitting on the ground with your stretched legs in front of you. Support your weight by placing your hands flat on the floor behind you. Put the roller below your calves. Roll it slowly up and down the back of your calves to your ankles. Do this for a minute.
  5. Quads. Lie on the floor facedown with the foam roller positioned underneath your front thighs. You can place your elbows flat on the floor to support your upper body weight. By leaning your weight to the right, roll the foam up and down from your hips to your knees. Focus the pressure on your lateral thigh. Switch your weight to the left and do the same. Do both quads for a minute.
  6. Side Stretch. Lie on your left side and stretch your left arms and hands flat on the floor. Place the roller underneath your armpits. You should feel your side muscles being stretched by the pressure of your weight. Just do minimal rolling movements here. You can do a thumb up for more effect. Do the same to your right side.
  7. Outer Thighs. Lie on your side and place the foam roller under your left hip. Your left hand should be supporting your all your weight. Use your abs and arms for balance while slowly rolling the foam up and down your hip and knee. Do the same for the right side for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Inner Thighs. Lying face down stretch your right foot while you place your left inner thigh on top of a roller parallel to your body’s position. Use your elbows to support your body. Make sure your bodies don’t touch the ground. Slowly roll the foam from your knees up against your inner thighs. Do the same to your other inner thigh. You can also work your abs during this exercise.
  9. Bottoms. Sit on the foam roller. Your right leg should cross over your left knee. Your weight should be supported by your hands behind you. Slowly roll your butt cheek over the foam. Find the tight spots and put pressure on those. After 1-2 minutes, cross your left leg over your right knee. Do the same rolling method to the other butt cheek.
  10. Glutes. While lying on the floor with the foam roller underneath your pelvic area, lift up your legs and bend your knees slightly. Hold tight to the end of the roller to maintain stability. Slowly bend your lower body to your right side in a twisting motion. Lift it your legs to your front and bend them again slowly to your left side. Make sure to direct pressure on the tight spot of your glutes, the upper part of your buttock. Do this movement for 1-2 minutes.
  11. Shins. Put your both your shins on top of the rollers in a kneeling position. With your hands flat on the floor for balance, slowly roll the foam up and down your shins from your knees down to the front of your ankles. Twist a little to look for the tight muscles that need relaxing. Roll for 1-2 minutes.

Core Exercises for Seniors

Getting out of bed, walking into the living room, sitting down, standing up, turning around, picking up a box, playing a round of tennis, leaning down to pet the dog. Every one of these activities engages the core.

Most daily life activities require core muscles, and building a strong core, with muscles that work together effectively, means a day untroubled insufficient balance, back pain, or difficulty standing up or sitting down.

Often exercising the core is thought of as an abdominal workout, with a flat stomach as the goal. Abs certainly are part of it, but the core matters for everyone, not just those aiming for a six-pack.

When we talk about the core, we are referring to the entire torso region and its supporting muscles in the legs and shoulders. The back, glutes (muscles on the back of the thigh), and spinal region are all critical to supporting body weight.

Strengthening these muscles ensures the burden is not placed solely on the bones, which can become prone to breakage as we age. From getting up in the morning to lying back down at night, a strong core can keep us balanced, pain-free, active, and able to better enjoy life.

Benefits of a Strong Core

Building a strong core comes with many key benefits.

  • Improves Balance and Prevents Falls – Core muscles are the body’s main stabilizers. A weak core means poor balance, which can increase the likelihood of falling. Fall-related injuries are often serious and can limit activities or make it impossible to live independently. A strong core, alternatively, can help prevent falls, navigate uneven walkways, walk up and down the stairs, and lean down to pick up a grandchild without toppling over.
  • Helps to Prevent Back Pain – Many adults experience back pain as they grow older, the wear and tear of life taking its toll on the vertebrae, causing bones to begin rubbing against one another. This rubbing of bone, as well as the undue stress it puts on the surrounding muscles, is the leading cause of back pain in older adults. Stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine can prevent much of this friction, and subsequent discomfort, from taking place.
  • Improves Posture – A weak core is cited as a major risk factor for developing hyperkyphosis, the exaggerated forward curve of the shoulders seen in some older adults sometimes called Dowager’s Hump. The development of this condition has been shown to result in back pain, impaired mobility, increased risk of falling, lower overall quality of life, and increased risk of mortality. A strong core, on the other hand, has been shown to support straight shoulders and a tall spine, which mitigate many of the aforementioned health issues associated with curved shoulders.

Building a Strong Core

There are many ways to improve core strength, quite a few of which can be done for no cost in the comfort of one’s own home.

  • Bodyweight Exercises – The sit-up is perhaps the most well-known bodyweight core exercise, requiring no equipment besides oneself. Others include leg lifts, side bends, and bridge. These are all great exercises to become familiar with, as they can be done anywhere — on vacation, in the living room, or at the gym.
  • Swimming and Water Exercise – Water-based exercise has a positive impact on the entire body, not just the core. The cushion of water helps keep joints and bones undisturbed, and flexibility and strength both improve significantly. As an added bonus, many public pools and gyms offer water aerobics classes, making this a fairly accessible form of exercise.
  • Tai Chi – As part of the martial arts family, this gentle exercise was originally developed for self-defence, but is now often described as “meditation in motion.” Like water exercise, it builds the core while being easy on joints, and has added psychological and stress-reduction benefits as well. Many Tai Chi groups practice in public parks or at senior centers, and are easily identified by the rolling motions of the movements.
  • Balance Training – Balance and core strength have a symbiotic relationship – when the core is strong, balance is good, when the core is weak, balance is poor. It follows, then, that balance exercises help strengthen the core. Activities as simple as standing on one foot, walking heel-to-toe, and standing on tiptoe can build up core strength and improve balance simultaneously. Alternatively, an exercise balance board can also yield excellent results.
  • Yoga – While the extreme flexibility of many young yoga practitioners may seem intimidating, yoga has been shown to be effective and beneficial for people of all ages, with some practicing well into their nineties. Maintaining a regular yoga practice is a great way to keep flexible, build muscle, and improve core strength. Tree, warrior II, and bridge are good poses to start off with.

Core training is an easy addition to a daily routine, and holds many benefits for older adults. Start out by trying various exercises for short periods of time, building up to longer workouts. In no time at all, core exercise will feel natural and normal, and getting up the stairs will be that much easier.

From tall, straight shoulders, to a pain-free back, to better balance and a lower risk of fall-related injuries, a strong core is a major help in nearly every area of life.

Exercise and a Healthy Senior Diet Plan

Having a healthy diet plan that will supplement your exercise and help you to maintain your health is key as a senior – When you confront our food-centered world with no plan, this is the recipe for a disastrous diet and an ineffective exercise program. From Sam’s Club free samples to drugstore checkout candy bars, plus the newest guilty pleasures being hawked by fast food commercials, it is so easy to be tempted. However, healthy weight loss does not have to feel like punishment or work. Here are a few simple methods to consistently lose weight while eating better.

  • Eat Smart. Eating smart will help you save calories and boost food flavor without having to starve yourself. For instance instead of mayo, use thinly sliced avocados as a sandwich spread. To make wraps, use lettuce instead of tortillas. To season meals, use a spice rather than heavy gravy. You can also use yogurt on tacos or baked potatoes rather than sour cream. Instead of cream-based soup, use broth-based soup.
  • Protein Thrice Daily. There needs to be three ounces of protein at every meal. This is about the size of a deck of cards if you are talking about meat or chicken. If you are eating eggs, this is about two eggs. Most people will have dinner that contains protein. However, when you spread out the protein and start at breakfast, the body uses this more efficiently. Lean muscle mass is promoted by eating protein. Excess protein is stored as fat or energy instead of feeding the muscles.
  • Be a Breakfast Eater. When you eat breakfast in the morning, this prevents overeating later in the day. When you eat at roughly the same time every day, the body is more efficient at burning energy. This is like a fireplace consistently burning the entire day since there is a log in it. Your metabolism tends to slow down when your body is not sure when it will get the next meal.
  • Use an Ice Cream Scoop to Measure. Serve tuna salad, mashed potato or cheese and macaroni with an ice cream scooper. This gives you total portion control. If you were to use a scoop for egg salad, corn, rice or potatoes as well as other food types that can be scooped, you get portion consistency all the time.  A good rule of thumb to follow would be two scoops max which equals half a cup. Of course, if you are satisfied with just one scoop, that is even better.
  • Keep Eating Your Favorites. When you limit filler food like bread and rolls at dinner, you will have room to occasionally indulge in your favorite food. When you completely take your favorite foods off of the menu, it is unlikely you will stick to your diet. Continue to enjoy your favorite food by cutting back in other places. If you love fast food, get a happy meal now and then.
  • No Eating 2 Hours Before Bedtime. You get a pile up of calories if you eat just before bedtime.  Plus, this will cause you to choose unhealthy food. Also, while you sleep, your body won’t really burn calories efficiently. This is simply not a good health practice to follow. If you must eat sweets, earlier in the day is better than late at night. This way you get to burn them up. If you love snacking before bed, keep your snack just over one hundred calories tops. This can be low fat yogurt, peanut butter on whole grain bread or half a cup of milk.
  • Say No to Soda. There are 140 calories in a Coke can. Most cola-drinkers have over one can of soda per day. There is no nutritional value in soda.
  • Regular Eating. Regularly eating keeps your metabolism up and running. This will make it unlikely that you will overeat or be ravenous at mealtimes. To keep your metabolism up, you need to frequently eat throughout the day. It is not easy to draw the line between grazing all day and frequently eating. Most people just need three meals daily plus a hundred or so calories of small snacks unless you exercise a lot. Eating snacks when you are the hungriest will give you the most mileage out of them. You might want to try eating every four hours for best results.
  • Carb Quality Matters. Beans, whole grains and other slowly-digested carbohydrates provide fiber, minerals, vitamins and keep you fuller longer. For healthy weight loss purposes, it is fine to eat carbs. It does make a difference what carbs you eat, however. Most people think that whole grains are just in bread. However, there are a lot of new options available these days. Try quinoa and salmon for dinner, brown rice and stir-fried vegetables for lunch, oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Think Fresh. Every weekend, take fifteen minutes to do some planning about what the coming week’s dinner will be. Take this list to the grocery store. If you have everything you need for the coming week, you are not as likely to reach for convenience food or a takeout menu. Packaged foods that have gone through a lot of processing are not quite as satisfying since it takes longer to digest and chew whole food. When you eat fresh food like lean meat, vegetables and fruits plus low fat dairy, you won’t overeat compared to a pizza or burger that you can consume in seconds.
  • Consistency is Key. No matter what healthy weight loss method you use, consistently doing this faithfully every day will help you get results. This is true whether you are cutting portions or counting carbs, fat or calories. This helps you begin to lose weight within a month of making a few diet changes.
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