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How To Thrive Over 50: A Movement Checklist


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One of the definitions Merriam-Webster has for thrive is: “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”

Your generation can progress towards, maintain or realize a goal of thriving. Of course, you may have a different definition of thriving than the next person (not to mention whatever stereotype general society deems as thriving!). However, all that matters is your definition, your lifestyle and your likes and wants. You can thrive over 50 and still be continue to pursue your fitness goals…however you define them. You decide how fit you need to be over 50!

Think of this checklist as the trunk of the tree…you should add on the branches and leaves and make it yours.

High Intensity Is For You Too

High-Intensity interval training is explained by American Council on Exercise (ACE) as:

a cardiorespiratory training technique that alternates brief speed and recovery intervals to increase the overall intensity of your workout. HIIT is used by athletes and everyday exercise enthusiasts to reach performance goals and enhance fitness and well-being.”

Notice that in the description there is no mention of the specific rate of intensity or rate of speed….This is because this is a relative experience. If Usain Bolt did an interval I doubt if many of us could keep up with his speed. The word to focus on is…his speed. Thus, his intervals may be faster or more intense than ours but as long as the way you are moving is a high intensity to you is all that matters.

So remember…intensity is relative!!

You may have heard this term in some fitness articles or in the news. Here is an article that was published in the New York Times about the idea that this type of exercise can be good for any age. Click here to read it.

These intervals are short and allow you give a high rate effort in short bursts. You can be using equipment  – for instance on an exercise bike pushing it for 30 seconds and backing off for 30 seconds and back on. Also, they are many bodyweight exercises that can also be used for this type of exercise. Just remember you know what is high intensity to you, that is all that matters. Go quicker than you usually do. This does not necessarily mean giving (and sometimes should not be) 100%.

High-intensity movements can add variety to your workouts and can be a fun way to challenge yourself. This does not need to be your entire workout…nor should it be the kind you do every time you get your blood flowing. However, sprinkling this in occasionally can be a great way to mix things up. So the takeaway is that older adult fitness can and should include some aspect of high intensity.

Move Your Limbs One At A Time

Think about the way you move during your day. You reach for the refrigerator door with one hand. You carry a bag of groceries in one hand. You walk upstairs one foot at a time and you walk one foot at a time. The list goes on and on as to how you move one arm or leg at a time. With all of that in mind, why not move in ways to help you move better like that?

Let’s take just the legs for example. There is much research that links lower extremity strength and mortality rates. Not muscle mass…but leg strength. Read here about a study regarding leg strength. This makes sense because if you are unable to get out of a chair, walk and move without assistance this could be a serious issue. Of course, those in a wheelchair or have restrictions to walk or stand is a different story. However, all can work on ways to be stronger so they can move better.

Now with what I mentioned above about how we move throughout life that is why single limb (also known unilateral exercises) exercise is important. Single leg strength is important to work on and there are many variations and options on how to do it. Tony Gentilcore has a good write-up about unilateral strength training.

I will talk about it more below…but one benefit to single leg training in all of its variations this also involve balance! Of course, you don’t need to do unilateral movements all of the time…but it should be a part of your repertoire. This could be strength training or bodyweight exercises…either way, start where you are now and build a foundation.

Practice Getting To The Floor And Back Up Again

Cleaning the house, gardening, playing with grandkids, finding something that rolled under the couch…all of these and more involve getting to the ground and back up again. Without a doubt, if someone cannot do this there is a great risk of them falling. Also if they do fall then they won’t be able to get up without help. As you can imagine having the confidence to be able to get to the floor and back up again can be huge. On the other side, not having the ability to do this can detrimentally affect one’s confidence not only to get to the ground but also walking as there may be a greater fear of falling and an inability to get back up again.

There are many ways to do this movement. It does not have to be pretty. There are many options for getting to the ground to standing. When the basics get easy there are options to add a level of difficulty and it does not need to involve adding weights. Here is one of the ways to do it below.

Click here to see the other options for the floor to standing exercise.

Challenge Your Balance

Balance training is often not something you may think of until you notice that your balance is not as good as it used to be. That, of course, is a good time to start working on improving your balance. In addition, balance training should be part of everyone’s regime. Yes, you can work on balance in some specific moments and also….dancing is a great way to work on balance! There are many benefits from dancing!

On the same vein as how we move in regards to single limb strength…when we are walking we have to use balance as we are on one foot at a time.

Think that your balance is great? Good then work to maintain it. If holding your leg up and balancing for 30 seconds is too easy then get more movement involved. Think about a single leg deadlift or a lateral lunge to balance. On the other hand, if your balance needs improvement you can tell that in your everyday activities. It is so important to address this so the chances of a fall are decreased. Check out some options here.

As we get older it is so important that we practice improving our balance. The statistics about falls and the life-changing effects of elderly falls are staggering. Falls are not an inevitable part of aging. Improving your balance and also agility will reduce your risk of falls and keep your confidence at a high level when you are carrying on your everyday life and fun activities.

Move Outside Of The Cross

Often when we do certain exercises that involve stepping we get locked into moving forwards and sometimes sideways. Both are good, especially sideways. However, think about how we move in life. We don’t move exactly forwards or exactly sideways. We step in many directions if not all within the hands of the clock (if the clock is on the floor).

This is an example below of a movement that helps my clients move outside of the cross. As you will see I also show an option how I do it. This goes to show you that there are options for all levels!

This bit of advice can be helpful for those of you that have tight hips. Often stepping outside of the usual angles can help to move in directions that your body has not before. Lubricating the joints in that way and also improving mobility can be an “aha” moment when you can see how movement outside of the cross will help in more than one way!

Don’t Buy Into Get Rich Quick…

You are already shaking your head, yes those get rich quick schemes don’t work…so why not apply the same thought to those guarantees for you to lose something or gain something in 30 days or some prescribed time?

Building up your strength, cardiorespiratory endurance or other aspects of the way you move takes time. Not only do we all have different bodies but our lives can be different. Thus progressing to whatever goal that you have whether it includes improving balance or getting stronger can differ from person to person. You bring your individualism to the table when it comes to improving how your move. Make sure if you don’t have someone that is working with you to help you reach the goals (your goals!) that you make a program yours and adjust how you need to.

Whatever works for you, stick to it. You may know someone that has stuck to strength training or things like P90X and have seen results. What really interests you that you can come back to and set up a path of consistency? If you are ever questioning a product or a specific gym do your homework. These days there is a lot to choose from. If that does not help then turn to a fitness professional for advice.

Switch Things Up

Variety is the spice of life – which also applies to movement. Don’t feel as if you have to do the same type of exercise or movement every time you lace your shoes. Having a consistent schedule is good like going for a walk with a friend a couple times a week. But to get set in the same exact routine every week will over time lead to a plateau. In other words, you will probably stop seeing as much progress towards the goals that you want to reach.

Think of this variety as reading the same book over and over. Eventually, you may almost have it memorized and your base of knowledge about the contents will only go so far. However, if you read different books on a similar subject matter you will have a greater understanding and base of knowledge. Here is an article that talks about why it is important to vary workout routines.

Speed Hides Control

We are all guilty of doing things quickly and this can happen when performing an important movement. You have probably seen people do curls, squats or other kinds of movement very quickly. Yes, sometimes moving quickly is necessary. For instance, the high-intensity exercise I touched on above – moving quickly is par for the course. However other movements when you are going quickly you are using more momentum and less stability.

So speed hides control…

So when should you use less momentum? One rule of thumb could be when you are moving with heavy weight. If you are doing curls just don’t throw the weight up and let it fall back down and repeat. Below is one of my videos about this that may also shed some light on proper technique.

 

Don’t Forget About Self Care

Improving the way you move is imperative, without a doubt. At the same time self-care rounds you out and allows you to be your best physical self during your everyday life activities…not just when improving the way you move. Here are a few things you should keep in mind for checking off that self-care box!

What Are You Putting In Your Body?

In regards to this aspect of fitness, it cannot be ignored that what you put in your body will affect how your body functions. Because I am not a certified nutritionist I am not going to give you specific advice.  I know what works for me, you know what works for you…or not. One thing you could do is keeping track of what you are eating daily and your energy level you could try hacking it that way. However, if you want to get some qualified advice then turn to a nutritionist or others in that field that can give you specific advice about YOUR body…not just the general population.

Enjoy What You Do

You know yourself better than anybody else and what you enjoy doing.  If you pull yourself out of bed already dreading your workout you are not setting yourself up for success. There are countless ways to move. There are exercises classes of many kinds that don’t just involve weights. If you are not for group exercise classes and instead want to be outside doing something then look into your options. Sometimes the resources that you have available may be limited…so use what you have!

As a Functional Aging Specialist in San Diego, I want you to also practice certain movements that you do in everyday life so you can do them better. I want you to improve the way you move through various forms of movement. There is a consistency in meeting a certain amount of times a week. There is also a foundation that is built from day one. The key is once you have mastered a certain movement then it is time to make small changes to challenge you.

Reach out to me so we can work together and you can use our sessions to help you move better in everyday life and continue to do what you want and like to do!

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