Older Adult Health and Wellness

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Keep Muscular Atrophy at Bay


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Strength training generally is associated with the “mirror muscles.” The mirror muscles can include biceps, that elusive 6-pack or muscular or toned legs. Those are great and all but muscles help us move not just look good. Muscles help us lift that bag of dog food up and into the trunk. These muscles allow us to reach down pick up a grandchild and play with them. Life involves strength. Life involves the power to come up out of chair with speed and control.

Atrophy is what we want to keep at bay as much as we can. When we are younger we may not be thinking about atrophy.  Atrophy is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue.” When it comes to adults as we get older is that muscular atrophy can happen as an effect of aging.

Here is an excerpt from a great article by Harvard Health about preserving muscle mass… “Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade…” Click here to read more of this article.

Strength training is for every age and gender. The amount of pounds we use when strength training may be less as we get older.  What should not change is the challenging nature of strength training. Gentle exercise does not keep atrophy as bay. Challenges are subjective when it comes to strength training. To keep muscular atrophy at bay for as long as possible incorporate strength training into your regime!

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The Scarlet Letter B


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You know that story. Here is a super duper short cliff notes version… a girl has to wear the scarlet letter A and it is not fun. It is her badge.

When we read that story we all knew we did not want to wear that label around. Not only would others make opinions about you but also you would internalize it. Our goals, aspirations, and joys rarely find their way to us in a straight line. We have struggled with different modalities. The challenges can be mental, physical, financial or a mixture that includes other ones.

What this short post is – it hones on your body. Your body is there for all of life. There are emotions tied to how we move. There are emotions tied to when we can’t move how we want to. A temporary physical setback like stubbing your toe is annoying. After that sore toe heals, it passes it can be a mere afterthought. Bigger things like chronic pain and discomfort in your knees, hips, or shoulders can affect your daily life. Especially if you can see a scar or your gait is noticeable you have a constant reminder. It can be an understatement that this is frustrating.

It can be easy to start attaching that emotion to your body parts. It is like a personal version of a check engine light that is on in your car. You know there is something wrong and there is a constant reminder every time you turn the key. As for your body every time you roll out of bed or do a certain movement you may be unconsciously “protecting” when you move.

Describing that body part is tied to emotions. Instead of your left or right shoulder, it becomes the bad right shoulder. There is an expectation and assumption that it will cause you pain or discomfort in any way that you move it. I have worked with many people that use that description when I am working with them. I have them switch to that side or move in a certain way and they will say out loud “oh this is my bad side.” Sometimes they will feel what the expected, and sometimes they will not and be surprised. Either way, I correct them and I urge you to describe it as your “other side.”

Especially when you introduce variations of a movement, practice breathing or mobility techniques you can be surprised by how you feel. You may not be using your full range of motion, but you are moving in a way that is with less discomfort or pain. Wearing that scarlet letter B can hinder you being open to the possibility that you can move in ways that are better.

I challenge you to try every day not to put that that scarlet letter B on every time you wake up and go on with your day. Find ways to move. Find ways to move differently. Be open to learning ways to move that can reduce comfort or pain even if it is a 10% difference. You just may be surprised by the outcome over time.

 

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Baby Boomers Guide to Better Movement – Vol 2


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Do Complex Movements

Everyday life activities involve complex movements. Rarely do we isolate one specific muscle when carrying out our daily lives. Not convinced? Think about getting into a car. There are many ways to get into a vehicle depending on how high it is off the ground. However, we don’t just sit down like we do into a chair. At some point, at the least – these things are in play: balance, flexibility, agility, and strength.

Thus, moving better in life involves incorporating complex movements. Walking is more than just using your legs, it also incorporates balance and agility when there are obstacles in the way. Think of these complex movements another way…often when we do move in life we move with weight or moving weight. Carrying groceries, pushing a shopping cart or picking something off the floor are all ways we move that are complex movements. So don’t overthink this idea!

With all of that in mind (pardon the pun)…your ability to perform these movements is something that is not just physical but mental also. Practicing movements is good for your brain.

Examples include:

  • Lateral lunge/step to the side to balance.
  • Squat to medicine ball push out.
  • Performing standing curls or presses with a foot stance that challenges your balance.
  • Starting at the 1/2 kneeling position and then coming up to standing.

 

Be Able To Get Down To The Floor & Back Up

The ability to bring yourself all the way to the ground and back up to standing is probably something that was an afterthought when we were kids. As we get older we may not play as much especially if we don’t have kids or even pets. When the kids are old enough that getting on the floor is not a priority you may not do it as often. For some individuals getting to the floor is not only difficult but it is scary…because they are not confident or able to get back up. This is something that I want all of my clients and you to not be afraid of doing.

That inability and/or lack of confidence is huge. That can greatly increase the chances of falls and injuries. Looping back into the previous section of complex movements…this for sure is a complex movement!

For some ideas on ways to practice this click here. However you do it, don’t worry if it is not perfect. Practice makes better. The more you practice and have that confidence the more you can keep the chances of falls low. If it is easy for you there are many ways to make a floor to standing exercise more challenging.

Do What Works For You – Consistently

It is easy to be assaulted with what works in regards to better movement to improve your quality of life. You may have friends or family that have found success with certain workout routines, diets or gadgets that keep them on track in regards to what they should be doing. End of the day those that tout their success have one thing in common – consistency.

When you just walk every once in a while or go to an exercise class when the spirit finds you then it is not a recipe for progress. It is true that sometimes you may not feel like doing that activity. It is important that you stick to a consistent schedule of movement. It does not have to be the same thing, but a consistent schedule of movement can reap many benefits. You will see that over time there may be a plateau of your progress. When those times happen do not fall into the trap of automatically choosing more volume of whatever activity you are doing.

Variation or variety can be your key to maintaining your quality of life or improving it. For example, instead of going for a leisurely walk outside or on the treadmill – increase your pace. In this instance stick to the mileage, you usually cover and ramp up that intensity to add that variation to your usual walk and make it more of a challenge.

Be Attentive To Your Hearing & Vision

What do your hearing and vision have to do with better movement? Actually much more than you may think…other than the obvious. Everything is connected! Poor vision can negatively affect your balance. Click here to read more about that. This is about your vestibular system.  Curious to know that is involved with that amazing function of our bodies? Check out this overview of the human balance system.

Your ability to hear is connected to more than just than that sense. Hearing loss can bring an increased risk of falls. Yes! Read more about it here.

Don’t Neglect Stability 

First, let’s start with a definition of stability and go from there. American Council on Exercise defines it as: “the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.” Feel free to read more about it here.

Does that help? If not – think about this idea. Think about owning a movement. I am sure you are familiar with the basic dumbbell bench press. The person is on their back on a bench and pressing two dumbbells up and bringing them back down. For sure, there is a time and place to move those weights up quickly. On the other hand can that person “own” that movement and slow it down a bit so there is less momentum so they are forced to be in control of the entire exercise.

What kinds of exercises can improve your stability? Honestly in the right situations slowing down the movement so there is less momentum is one of the best ways to do that. Another example is the dumbbell curls. You could throw up that dumbbell and let gravity pull it back down and do as many reps as possible. Yet a test of stability that is the foundation of strength is raising that dumbbell with the control without much momentum.

Build Your Core Strength and Stability

The core is much more than a 6-pack. Your core muscles are more intertwined with your body outside of that square area below our chest. Learn more about your core muscles here.  Our posture, how we move, sit and carry out our daily life all fires off our core muscles.  A good way to keep lower back pain away is to do core strength and stability exercises. This does not mean doing crunches all day.

Sure you may know about crunches. I personally am not a fan of them as it can lead to neck pain and does not really hit multiple areas of the core musculature. I am a fan of the dead bug exercise. I could write an article about why I do…but why recreate the wheel? Check out Tony Gentilcore’s article about this and also study his videos on mistakes people often make.

Also, all core exercises should not be on the ground. The reason is that we also are using things like balance or strength when we do utilize our core muscles…so why not do that when we are challenging our bodies to improve our core strength? Check out some examples below in the video.