By Susan Manning
A New Year always brings on New Year resolutions and new beginnings and for some of you that might just be the beginning of an exercise program. In general, men over 40 and women over 50 new to exercise should check with their doctor before becoming more physically active…safety always comes first.
If you are new to exercise this article is for you……if you already exercise this will be a refresher and reminder of some important information. Such as the importance of warming up prior to exercise which can be as simple as marching on the spot while swinging your arms back and forth or going for a brisk walk while moving your arms. Warming up prepares the body for the exercise to come and should involve the joints that will be used in your program.
Just like any building or structure we need to start with a good foundation and in the human body these are your core muscles. There are 29 muscles that make up your core which are located in your torso. Learning how to engage these muscles are important for a number of reasons.
Core Muscle Functions
- Help us to maintain good posture
- Are important in lifting movements to protect our back and body from strain and injury
- Stabilizes us against abnormal force i.e. Being bumped into
- Continence: the ability to withhold bowel movements, and urinary stress incontinence (the lack of bladder control due to pelvic floor dysfunction can result in weak core musculature)
Here is an exercise you can start with. Keep in mind that any exercise you perform from here on out always starts with setting your foundation “contracting your core muscles” so we need to practice and get good at this.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Think of your belly button being the center of your clock and all the numbers of the clock are around your torso.
- Breathe in and as you exhale think about pulling those numbers in towards the center of your clock (belly button).
- You will feel the back pressing into the floor as the muscles contract as two of your four abdominal muscles wrap right around your torso like a corset
- Relax your buttock and shoulders let the contraction happen between the hips and the ribs.
- Hold for 10 – 20 seconds then release, repeat 5 times.
Here is a simple balance exercise that you can do, Single leg Balance. Make sure you are standing with good posture and you have engaged your core….all important to being able to balance.
Single Leg Balance
- Stand behind and hold on to a sturdy chair for support
- Bend one knee and balance on the one foot
- Hold 10 – 15 seconds then switch legs
Functional movements such as Chair Stands help to strengthen our hips, thighs and buttocks.
- Standing in front of a sturdy, armless chair with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and arms stretched straight out in front of you.
- Slowly to a count of four lower yourself to a seated position making sure that your knees DO NOT come forward past your toes and keep your hips, knees and ankles in line (do not let your knees drop in).
- Slowly to a count of two rise back up to a standing position. Keeping your knees over your ankles and your back straight.
- Do 1 to 2 sets, and 8 – 12 reps
- For upper body you can include a Wall Pushup which will work your chest, triceps (back of arms) and anterior deltoids (front of shoulders) and assist you in being able to push i.e.: a heavy door
- Stand in front of a wall with your feet shoulder width apart and about12 – 24 inches away from the wall. Hands a little wider then shoulder width apart.
- Keeping back in neutral and core muscles tight. Bend elbows bringing chest towards wall. Go no closer to the wall then the elbows in line with the shoulders.
- Press back up to starting position. Focus on your chest the whole time.
- 1 to 2 sets, 8 – 12 reps
And finally another important but often neglected part of an exercise program is stretching. Being limber gives you the freedom to move and not feel restricted in your movement, whether it is putting on your socks or reaching for something on a shelf.
Here are a couple of examples of stretches you can do:
Whether you are picking up your grand child or shoveling snow, engaging the core muscles as well as bending from strong knee and hip joints and keeping the weight close to your body are very important. Warm up / Core / Balance / Functional exercises / Cardio / and Cool down stretching are all important parts of a well balanced exercise program.
These exercises and stretches will give you a good start to your fitness program. Keep looking for new articles which will cover additional exercises and topics which are important to your health, fitness and well being. You can also order our complete guide to exercise for older adults for more exercises and levels of intensity.
To Good Health!
About the Author: Susan Manning is a BCRPA TFL, ACE, ACSM, TWIST certified Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist in BC. She is Dr. Carolyn Anderson’s co-author of It’s Never Too Late To Be Fit, a comprehensive guide for older adult’s fitness.