Great News!!!!! It really doesn’t matter if you are 20 years old or 80, as far as your muscles are concerned, proving it’s never too late to start an exercise program. No matter what your age, muscles respond in the same way to the stress of exercise-they get stronger. They may not get as large, due to decreased levels of testosterone and growth hormone, but heck, at 55 myself, it’s not so much about looking burly in the mirror as it is being able to function at a high level without injury and with staying healthy. There are certain exercise rules that are my personal credo when working with my geriatric clients. 1) Since I try to mimic life situations as much as possible, I rarely use machines and do limited work on the floor or sitting. When you are on a machine, you are usually fixed in a single plane of movement. Life is not like that-we move in 3 different planes, so training to get strong in only one doesn’t transfer well to real world activities. I see many people on the floor doing crunches to strengthen stomach muscles. I can’t think of an activity in life when I crunch my stomach to lower myself. Standing and taking the arms overhead or to one side is much more effective. Besides, lying on the floor means half of your stomach muscles do not have to work since they don’t have to support and stabilize you against gravity. Use gravity-it is your friend and can make you very strong. 2) I do a lot of hand-eye coördination activities such as tossing a tennis ball back and forth while standing on one leg. Try it with someone for 30 secs or so and then tell me it’s not work. I also do activities like stepping up or down from a step to mimic stepping up or down from a curb, etc. It’s amazing how many elderly are afraid to do this for fear of falling. It also gives me good information on foot-knee-hip stability and strength. 3) Speaking of hips, most people are extremely weak and tight in this area. Many men have no rear at all, and the rear is (or should be) the second biggest muscle group in the body, and is where your spine sits. The weaker the hips, the more back strain and pain you’ll have. Also, the muscles in the front of the hips, which shorten when you sit, tend to pull your trunk forward making it very hard to stand and walk straight. The stronger your butt, the more erect you’ll be. 4) I treat everyone like an athlete, because, in effect, they are. You have to make a very athletic move to avoid the car coming at you when you’re walking, or to avoid falling.
Remember, it’s never too late to start.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.