Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Weight-shifting exercises are key to fall prevention for residents

ThinkstockPhotos-590277470.jpgThe numbers are clear: about one-third of adults, ages 65 years and older, will sustain a fall this year. And the statistics that relate to the cost of falls are equally concerning. Because falls are a substantial risk in senior living communities, we focus a lot of attention on asking why residents fall and what can we do to prevent them. The results from a recent study provides us with some answers.


Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

A 2014 observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. The video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The researchers concluded that the most common cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how an individual moves or transfers from one position to another.

Specifically, researchers noted that the majority of falls they recorded occurred in a position change from standing to walking. You see, staying balanced is about more than maintaining steady footing when in motion. The results of this study show that how we start moving can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Read Now: The Importance of Teaching Physical Balance

Weight-Shifting Exercises are Key to Fall Prevention

If the researchers are right, then we need to make sure our senior living fitness programs incorporate weight-shifting exercises for participants. Not only do these activities teach residents about how to understand their center of gravity, but they also help with coordination and provide opportunities for modest strength and endurance gains in the lower body muscles. When taught carefully, implementing weight-shifting exercise into a balance program can provide intentional focus on more precise movement which helps overall motor control.

Ideally, your community's fitness program is run by a qualified fitness professional who can provide a range of fitness services for seniors including customized exercises in group and individual settings for each resident's needs.

Is outsourcing fitness and wellness right for you?

Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or with simple recommendations of exercises for a resident to include in her typical morning stretches. Trained staff can also provide field testing to help residents understand how they score on balance and other fitness tests so that they can work toward improvement with their tailored exercise regimen.

In case you don't have qualified staff on board, here are some examples of simple weight-shifting exercises for active older adults that can be taught by anyone in your community:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times in both directions. Watch a demo of the exercise.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg. Watch a demo of the exercise.

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Topics: senior living senior fitness fall prevention balance training

Tips for Starting an Exercise Program at an Older Age

According to an article in Psychology Today, one of the major reasons people tend to stop exercising after recently starting an exercise routine is that they do not want to experience discomfort. After reading this article, it made me wonder whether this is the reason some residents are more hesitant than others to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives. Investigating further into this, I had conversations with several residents about this. Some of them mentioned that they have the feeling they might be doing too much, too soon.

[Getting started: What Exercises Should I do?]

ThinkstockPhotos-72459386.jpgWith exercise showing benefits such as improved balance, increased total-body strength, improved cognition, and reduction of chronic illness, it is difficult to understand why people would not exercise. However, there are two reasons why I think this “too much, too soon” judgment could arise in senior fitness: 

  • Your body has not become neuromuscularly adapted to exercise and you are engaging muscle groups that are not commonly utilized in everyday life.
  • The exercise is too strenuous from overtraining, either causing strains in de-conditioned muscle groups, or potential re-injury. You can use this article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a guide to determine whether you are experiencing overtraining. 

Following are four tips for starting an exercise program at an older age that I provide to residents in my senior living community.  Combat that “too much, too soon” feeling, and ease into the process of adding exercise to their everyday lives without overdoing it.

Monitor How You Are Feeling

A great way of measuring this is to use an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) Scale to measure how hard you feel your body is working. On a scale of 0–10 (with a 0 being at complete rest, and 10 being at highest possible intensity), you should exercise within a 3 or a 4 intensity (at a moderate intensity).

Recording your heart rate after exercise is also an effective measurement of exertion. If you notice after several minutes that your heart rate is not decreasing after exercise, your body is not recovering properly.

Stop exercise if you are experiencing severe bone/joint pain, or sudden pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arms.

Begin Slowly and Gradually Increase Duration/Intensity

If you are new to exercise, start out by scheduling exercises at least 2–3 times per week, for 15–20-minute sessions. As you become more physically adapted to exercise, you could increase your frequency to roughly 4–5 days per week. When you reach a point where you would like to increase your resistance and/or intensity, make sure that you make no more than a 5% increase in one week.

If you have been exercising for a while, don’t hesitate to reduce your workload to re-acclimate your body to the regular routine. This might include coming to an exercise class that is seated rather than standing, or cutting back a few minutes on your daily walk.

Plan Rest Days Accordingly

If you do not give your body the opportunity to rest in between exercise sessions, it will have physiological effects on your nervous system, and potentially develop micro-trauma and overuse injuries. You could also spend your rest and recovery days doing light stretching exercises, or going for a light walk.

Be Patient

It will take at least 3–6 weeks for your body to develop neuromuscular adaptation to exercise, and to achieve long-lasting results.

If you incorporate a slow and steady approach and find that proper balance in your exercise routine, you’ll have a higher rate of success in achieving your exercise goals and avoid a setback. 

Exercise for older adults is about more than just physical fitness, grab our quickread below and read more about the importance of exercise in aging well.

  Download: Why is exercise important for seniors? >

Topics: exercise active aging senior fitness senior living community

Exercise Through the Continuums: Determine what you could be doing?

ThinkstockPhotos-116356163.jpgActivities Directors in assisted living and memory care environments are busy.  They have a lot of balls in the air, not the least of which is some type of movement-based programming for their residents.  Unfortunately, that specific element of their enrichment programming often takes a back seat to other priorities.

In a previous blog, I offered questions for leadership in assisted living and memory care environments to help them give new attention to what fitness options might be missing for their residents in assisted living and memory care environments.  As we carry those questions forward and consider how to provide more comprehensive exercise classes and services, it’s easy halt progress because you’re overwhelmed by limits.  After all, resources, like staffing, are often in short supply; and when you don’t have the people to pull off an excellent program, it becomes daunting to even consider a change. 

At our upcoming workshop for senior living activity directors on March 7, 2017, we’ll discuss opportunities to piece existing resources together to enhance the health and fitness program for your IL, AL, SNF, and memory-care residents.  Below you’ll find some tips to help you get started with exercise through the continuums.

3 Resources at your Fingertips: People, People, & People

  1. Passionate & Creative Activities Professionals: we often find that the activities staff are those responsible for providing daily exercise classes for residents. They are also those who are incredibly dedicated to finding enriching experiences and programming opportunities for their residents. We have found success with Train-the-Trainer programs where the NIFS fitness staff on campus provide tools and resources to activities personnel to create more variety and tailored offerings to residents.
  2. Qualified Fitness Staff: Many CCRC’s have group fitness instructors, personal trainers, or exercise physiologists supporting the health and fitness program for independent living (IL) residents on campus but they are limited in reach through the continuums of care. IL is where many residents begin to adopt a physically active lifestyle. With proper planning and strong communication, the existing fitness staff can bridge programming and resources to other continuums of care on campus.
  3. Supportive Clinical Staff: In communities without an IL component or where no regular fitness staff are present, therapy and nursing staff can play a more central role in supporting the day to day physical activity needs of residents. This can be key in residents maintaining the positive outcomes they gain as part of a spell in direct therapy services.

The passionate, caring, and dedicated staff in your senior living community might be your best untapped or underutilized resource in further serving the health and fitness needs of residents through any continuum of care. The great thing about these individuals I highlighted above is they likely already know many if not all of your residents, where individuals have struggled or what motivates them.  The March 7 workshop hosted at NIFS will provide more details and action steps on how to bring a team oriented approach to supporting the health and fitness needs for you residents. With various hands and skillsets in the mix, you can support your residents in a whole new way. Stay tuned for part 3 of this blog series on additional resources to explore in enhancing your fitness offerings.

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Topics: senior living communities senior fitness Exercise through the contnuums NIFS Workshop

3 Questions to Ask About Fitness Options in Assisted Living and Memory Care

ThinkstockPhotos-509493160.jpgIt’s been exciting to watch my staff push on the leading edge of expanded fitness
programming for residents in assisted living (AL), and memory-care environments for the senior living communities we serve. Over the last decade, significant progress has been made in exercise options for residents in independent living (IL); fitness centers, equipment, and scope of services have all evolved.  Unfortunately, progressing those options throughout a Life Plan community to all residents has remained an afterthought both from an amenity and programmatic standpoint. The IL residents at a community often have a fitness center, pool, robust group fitness calendar, and individualized services available to them and in many cases as they transition to AL or other areas of care on campus the drastic decline in available options shifts them from a professionally managed health and fitness program by an exercise physiologist to chair-based exercise classes lead by activities professional.

If you’re ready to take a closer look at the exercise program you provide for residents in licensed areas, these three questions are a great place to start:

Top 3 Questions to Ask Yourself about Fitness Options in assisted living and memory care:

  1. Whether you work in a standalone AL or memory-care community or CCRC, families inevitably ask about the physical activity options that are available to mom and dad beyond billable rehab services. They understand the importance of keeping the mind and body in motion as part of a daily lifestyle. Does your community have a good answer for these questions that demonstrates robust options that are purposeful and executed by trained staff?
  2. In licensed areas, residents often have rehab services more readily available to them and that might seem like an easy solution. How do you support residents when they are discharged after 6-8 weeks of therapy and eliminate the revolving door of improved function à discharge from therapy services à proceed to decline due to lack of physical activity options à then back in therapy again?
  3. If you are a CCRC and you currently have a robust fitness program for your IL residents, how do the residents’ options compare in terms of amenities, programs and services, and qualified staffing as residents move through the continuums? Having a continuation of offerings can be a great comfort as residents transition from one continuum of care to the next and it’s a great demonstration that the lifestyle they buy into in IL truly carries with them with whatever level of care they might need on campus.

Your answers to those questions may leave you with program and service gaps to fill.  In our 12 years working in senior living, we’ve developed best practices in exercise with residents in assisted living and memory care for:

  • Group fitness class offerings beyond basic chair exercise classes taught by the activities staff
  • Individualized services including personal training and fitness and balance assessments
  • Dedicated exercise equipment and spaces
  • Enriching wellness-based programming opportunities

Want to learn more? Join us in March 2017, when we host a workshop showcase some of these best practices and to provide training and tools for activities professionals to enhance the work they are doing serving the health and fitness needs of residents in AL and memory care.

NIFS Workshop: Register Now

We have two more blogs planned to spotlight what else you can learn in our Exercise Through the Continuums workshop.  Even if you can’t attend the event, you won’t want to miss the series where we help you outline how to make the best use of available resources for a fantastic fitness program.  Subscribe below to stay up to date!

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Topics: senior living senior fitness assisted living NIFS Workshop CCRC Programs and Services exercise through the continuums

Senior Fitness: What is the point of exercising?

As we age, we get this notion that we no longer need to exercise, or as the common adage says, “I’m too old.” To put it bluntly, you are never too old to exercise or be active. No matter your condition, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Years of research has shown that exercising has tremendous health benefits, no matter what your age is! Exercising has shown to improve balance and coordination, prevent bone loss, increase strength, improve cognitive function, and decrease chronic illnesses such as diabetes. With this in mind, here are few senior wellness myths that older adults believe when it comes to exercising.

What is the point of exercising when decline in old age is inescapable?ThinkstockPhotos-494387649.jpg

Aging does not mean decline; it means another chapter in life with new challenges to overcome. There are numerous stories of older adults becoming marathon runners like Ed Whitlock, who ran marathons well into his 80s. While running a marathon may not be your goal, it does show you that age does not matter. The delusion is that aging means weakness and/or fatigue, but in reality it’s a sign of inactivity. More importantly, exercising and staying active can help you maintain your independence and your lifestyle.

At my age, is exercise really safe for me?

Yes, exercise is safe for you. Again it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Moreover, studies have shown that individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to fall. In part this is because exercising improves strength, flexibility, and coordination. Two of the better exercises that target flexibility and coordination are tai chi and yoga. Additionally, exercising frequently will increase bone density and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis. 

I have a chronic disease, so I shouldn’t exercise.

Many older adults suffer from arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions. And because of it, older adults believe that they can no longer exercise. In fact, the opposite is true. Exercising and being physically active is the best thing to do. For example, if you have arthritis, exercising will help improve your range of motion and decrease the pain caused by arthritis, which will lead to increased energy levels and improved sleep. Additionally, if you happen to have arthritis, here are a few tips to get started before exercising:

  • Apply heat: This will help the blood flow and relax the muscles around the affected area.
  • Move gently: Move slowly to warm up the joints. You may want to do this between 5 and 10 minutes before moving on to strength and aerobic activities.
  • Ice: After performing your exercises, apply ice as needed to help prevent joint swelling.

***

If you are just starting out with senior fitness, make sure not to overdo it. It’s alright to start off slowly and to work your way up in intensity, especially if you have not been exercising for a few years or decades. The goal is to get moving and to create a habit that becomes a lifestyle. Also expect to experience soreness after beginning a program. However if you experience pain, you may have exercised too hard and will want to tone it down. 

See how we keep our residents coming back to the fitness center with our unique programing.  Click below for ideas to improve your programs.

Improve your programs >

Topics: senior wellness balance senior fitness staying active injury prevention osteoporosis

Spice Up Group Fitness Routines for Seniors, Keep Residents Interested

ThinkstockPhotos-509732600_1.jpgGroup exercise classes are one of the top activities in senior living communities nowadays. With the increasing number of activities provided on community calendars, having a good group exercise program significantly impacts the overall resident well-being as they participate in their daily activities.

The initial spark of having a new group fitness class promotes a tremendous buzz throughout the community, and the new activity on the calendar generates a lot of popularity. Participation is high, and residents look forward to this new class to see what’s in store for them at the next session. A month or so down the road, however, you may notice that the residents who were highly motivated to attend a particular exercise class have begun to feel less interested in the routine, potentially causing a decrease in participation.

When people are acclimated to an established exercise routine, there may come a point where they feel tired of doing the same exercises over and over again, or don’t feel challenged enough in the journey to an improved quality of life. If you begin to notice these things in your exercise programs, it might be time to make some minor adjustments. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to turn your group exercise program on its head and start from scratch.  Spice up group fitness routines for seniors and keep them interested.

As an exercise instructor who thinks about these things on a daily basis, one of my primary goals is to encourage participation in our group exercise classes on a regular basis, regardless of their skill level. I actively think of different ways of keeping residents enthusiastic about our classes, while still maintaining their overall purpose. While residents want to exercise safely, they also want to be appropriately challenged so that they don’t lose the benefit of maintaining an active lifestyle.

Following are three different strategies that I have used in the past to keep residents interested in classes.

Mixing Up the Exercises in Your Routines

Adding different exercises into your routines will help keep your residents interested, and can increase cognition as they perform exercises that focus on balance and hand-eye coordination. A good way to map this out is to try one new exercise per class, and see how your residents respond to it. If they find enjoyment in the sequence, you are on the right track! Varying your group exercise sequences every month or two can go a long way in maintaining resident interest.

Another effective strategy that helps in mixing up your routines is to have two or three different formats for one particular class, and to rotate through those formats. I have always found that having a couple routines that I could rotate through on a weekly or monthly basis keeps people more engaged.

Incorporate Music into Your Classes

Whether it’s a choreographed mix-tape that has a variety of upbeat songs for low-impact aerobic routines, or a Big Band CD that is used simply as a background filler for the class, you will notice an immediate increase in residents’ mood in the class, and in some cases they might even get into the groove as the music is playing in class. Having a mixture of upbeat tunes along with songs requested by your residents will keep the excitement going in class. Music can also serve as a motivational factor for residents when they are participating in classes, because exercising to music can have psychological benefits that include improved cognition, reduced anxiety, and many more.

Interactive Exercises

Most people think of group exercise as performing certain routines in a repetitive motion for a certain amount of weight, repetitions, and sets. While in certain class formats that may work, it does not always have to be that way. For most of my exercise classes, I mainly focus on exercises that mirror our activities of daily living (ADLs), and also include sequences that incorporate the mind/body connection. The National Institute for Health (NIH) has an extensive list of various exercises that are both interactive, and ways to focus the class on functionality. Nontraditional balance exercises such as ankle spelling and ball tosses will keep your members guessing both physically and cognitively.

Make sure to use these strategies to spice up your senior living community exercise classes! Keep an open mind when trying out new things in your classes; see what works, and spice things up! 

Start with evaluating your balance classes and maximize your Balance Program by downloading our whitepaper!

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Topics: senior living communities balance senior fitness resident wellbeing group fitness music quality of life

Senior Living: Four Tips for Improving Your Resident Exercise Program

Truly, one of the things I love about working in senior living is the passion employees have for serving the residents who live in their communities. Despite variation in the physical spaces’ amenities, decor, and size, the culture of caring about the residents is consistent. The people who work in senior living are genuinely committed to getting to know their residents as a means of helping them live exceptionally well.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but the other half of my career is spent in corporate

wellness, where the bottom line often drives the conversation. And while I think employers do care about their workforce, that’s not their starting point for investing in any wellness initiative. So when I work with senior living communities on improving their programming ThinkstockPhotos-529580019-1.jpgand activities for residents, I’m often surprised at what an afterthought their exercise amenities and services are. The clear appetite to provide residents with the very best options for living just doesn’t square with what’s in place for resident exercise at the community.

 If this disconnect resonates with you and you’re looking to make a change, consider
improving your resident exercise program with the tips below as ways to live up to your commitment to build active living options for your residents.

 

1. Provide staffing in your exercise program.

Residents will not (I repeat, will not) use your exercise equipment and spaces without the right leadership in that area of the community. It’s not sufficient to simply offer exercise classes, nor is it adequate service to have a trainer in the gym a few hours per week to offer assistance on the equipment. You can hire your own manager, or you can work with a fitness management company like ours. For more information on how get exercise leadership right in your community, check out some of the blogs we’ve written on the importance of staffing.

2. Review and update your group exercise equipment when you can.

Fitness equipment isn’t cheap, but the items used for group classes are far less expensive than the capital equipment in the fitness center. For $5,000, you can buy one new treadmill, or you can buy a classroom worth of new resistance chairs. There are a lot of practical tools that group fitness instructors can use in classes to make them more interesting and more effective for the residents, and they aren’t that expensive. In your next budgeting cycle, make room for a few of these options:

  • Small weighted balls: Sets of the 1.1# and 2.2# work well.
  • Airex balance pads: Buy enough for each person in balance class to have one.
  • BOSU: Buy a few to use in stations on a strength or balance class.

3. Establish a cross-referral system between your fitness center and your therapy group.

If you have qualified staff in your fitness center and there is not already a relationship between that individual and your therapy team, building a bridge between the two is low-hanging fruit on the improving-services tree. Check out this quick read to learn why we believe integration of therapy and fitness is important for resident well-being.

4. Take a hard look at all of your senior wellness initiatives and how fitness folds into that set of programming.

It should be woven in seamlessly among other programs and services designed to engage rather than entertain your residents. If all programming is being carried off in silos, it’s time to take a fresh approach. If participation in programs and services is represented by the same handful of residents, it’s time to re-envision your offerings. If the activities calendar looks pretty much the same as it did last month, last quarter, and last year, it’s time to breathe new life into what you’re offering. Download this quick read for a series of questions you can use to evaluate the quality of your wellness programming

Find out how to evaluate your program

Topics: exercise group exercise senior wellness senior living active living senior fitness staffing

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 4)

In my first, second, and third blogs of the series, I went over five of my guidelines to being successful in senior fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises
  3. Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements
  4. Grip Exercises
  5. Mobility Work
In this fourth and final blog of the series, I discuss one more guideline:

Don't Change Exercises; Change the Intangibles and Variables of the Exercise

ThinkstockPhotos-95247776.jpgCertain exercises, such as the sit-to-stand and the seated row, should always be performed in one's routine. Certain experts recommend that one would eventually replace these exercises with a new one. The reasoning behind this is that it is believed that over time the muscles will grow accustomed to certain exercises and the effect will be lost. While this is slightly true, it's not true because of the exercise itself, but rather the variables of the exercise, such as the sets, reps, rest periods, tempo, etc.

By changing these variables, the CCRC resdient client will always have results and will continue to perform exercises that work the entire body in unison, such as the exercises in the preceding blogs. As a result, they will increase their performance in the daily activities of life.

After all, the more something is changed, the less that person will be good at it. If you want to get good at throwing a ball, you spend your time throwing a ball and not catching a ball. Well, the concept is the same with exercise. Constantly changing the exercises on someone will possibly give them results, but the question isn’t, "Is this person getting results?" Rather, the question is, "Is this the best way to do it?"

So, constantly changing the exercises may elicit a result, but we are looking for the best results; therefore, mastering and being consistent with basic, compound, multi-joint, closed-chain movements will help gain strength, increase lean muscle weight, increase mobility, work the body in unison, increase neurological activation, and lead to greater overall success.

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Topics: CCRC balance senior fitness change mobility exercises grip

Residents Expect More from Senior Living Community Exercise Programs

ThinkstockPhotos-535515241.jpgI got a call from a resident of a senior living community the other day. She told me that she’d been thinking about how her community could do better with the exercise program it offers. She saw a lot of potential to build on already successful offerings, and she’d been working with a resident team on this idea. Over the last several weeks, she’d been all over our website and decided it was time to talk about how we might be able to support her team’s goal to report on options to improve the community’s exercise program.

This woman was sharp! She had a good understanding about what was available to them, what was working, and where they needed to progress. Specifically, she told me that the classes were well liked and that didn’t necessarily need a change, but she also noted these common issues:

  • The pool is largely empty except for the regularly scheduled water aerobics classes.
  • The fitness center is typically unused because residents don’t feel like they know how to use the equipment to their benefit.

She had grabbed our quick read on how to grow participation in your aquatics program, and that’s when it hit her: she knew it all came back to staffing—that having qualified fitness staff running the community’s exercise program was central to its success.

Your Current Residents Expect More—and They’re Telling Their Friends

So if you’ve been focused on other competing priorities at your community and the exercise program is an afterthought running quietly in the background, now would be a good time to give it a second look. Because your residents are already doing that; and you can bet that if your current residents have a radar for what’s possible, your prospects do, too.

Sometimes there’s a hurdle in understanding just what a fitness center manager should be doing. I suppose that varies by community, but for a staffing organization like ours, we have clear expectations and supports for how NIFS staff spend their time in our client’s fitness centers

Maybe you think this kind of astute observation by residents isn’t happening at your community. That might be true, but before you make that assumption, consider how the resident with whom I spoke shared her observations with a prospective resident.

She told me that she had invited a friend to dine with her recently who was not a resident of the community but who was shopping for a senior living environment he could call home. He asked her if there was anything negative about living there. She said she couldn’t come up with negatives (which is great!), but then she told him about how they could do better with their exercise program (which is not so great).

And this isn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this where a resident found our organization and reached out to see whether and how we could help.

Review Your Wellness Programs as Well as Fitness

For what it’s worth, your entire wellness initiative may need a review—it’s rare to have a strong exercise program and a weak holistic wellness offering. It’s also unusual to have your holistic wellness program be strong while your exercise program suffers. Wellness and fitness go hand in hand.

If you’ve been waiting to address your exercise program until the residents complain, it’s time. Begin your investigation on possibilities by downloading our quick read below designed to help you quickly evaluate your overall wellness program. It highlights some broader wellness areas as well as specific exercise program components. Share it with your team and start a conversation about how to do wellness better in your community.

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Topics: senior wellness senior living senior fitness senior living community resident wellness programs exercise program

Practical Senior Fitness and Functional Movement for Every Body

So what’s so practical about going to the gym, anyway? We can always find a million and one good reasons not to go. The dishes aren’t done, I haven’t finished reading the newspaper, the laundry is piling up, I have a headache, it’s too nice to be stuck inside, I’ve had a bad day…the list of excuses can go on and on. So why even bother?

The good news is that you don’t have to work out. But with every yin there is a yang, and the bad news is that if you choose not to exercise, you can expect to have a tougher time, especially as you get older, with simple daily tasks.

What Happens When You Can’t Perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?

At this point in your life I bet you can’t imagine not being able to walk up and down a flight of stairs, or losing the ability to dress yourself or brush your own hair. These are simple activities of daily living that we tend to take for granted. I can’t imagine entrusting my 5-year-old nephew with picking out clothes and putting them on me. I would probably have on a t-shirt with dinosaurs or a front-end loader on it, a pair of warmup pants (on backward, of course), and slip-on Wellie boots on the wrong feet. So thank goodness I can manage to get myself together and pick out my own clothes at this point in my life—and walk up and down the stairs to pick out said clothes, and get myself to work, or out to dinner with my husband, or on a walk with the dogs.

So how do we lose the ability to do functional movements that seem mundane at this point in our lives? It all boils down to inactivity. Sure, there are a lot of other issues that can compound the simple act of avoiding movement and exercise. But the act of avoiding movement and exercise on its own is enough, over time, and added to the natural muscular wasting or atrophy that occurs as we age, creates a perfect storm of problems that can seem insurmountable.

We need movement, especially weight-bearing exercises, to keep our muscles healthy and vital. As we age (Newsflash: we are all getting older; by the time you get to the end of this blog, you will be 10 minutes older), our bodies are less able to both maintain and create new muscle. Once you reach age 70, this issue begins to accelerate. By age 80 the problem has moved into the fast lane, and boy does she have a lead foot. 

The Senior Fitness Solution: Keep Moving and Staying ActiveThinkstockPhotos-463464655.jpg

This wasting process makes daily activities increasingly more difficult. And now we are back to the idea of going to the gym, because we don’t want our legs to shrivel up like a worm that sits in the sun too long. But we still have the same old excuses. So what to do? Do the things that you want to continue to maintain your ability to do.

  • Going up and down stairs: You still want to walk up and down the stairs? Take 10 to 15 minutes a day and briskly walk up and down the stairs. If you don’t have a staircase, use the curb outside or buy an aerobic step riser from a sporting goods store.
  • Getting in and out of chairs (or on or off the toilet): Another key exercise for leg strength is a modified squat, or what we call a sit to stand (and it’s also good for balance). Sitting on the edge of a sturdy chair, trying not to use your arms, come up to a standing position. Then sit back down. Imagine you are sitting on a lemon meringue pie. Don’t splat it out; sit on it gently. Don’t stay in the chair. Just touch it with your rear end and then push back up. Try 2 or 3 sets of 10.
  • Dressing yourself and performing ADLs: Want to still be able to dress yourself and brush your own hair? Do modified pushups or wall pushups! Two sets of 10 per day will be more than adequate. Add in some weights (you can just use soup cans) and do some overhead presses and a few bicep curls and reverse flys to activate the upper body. Stick with the idea of doing the exercises until the muscles fatigue, usually after 20 to 30 repetitions. Add in a few planks for core strength. If planks are out of your league right now, just do some bent-leg lifts while on your back on the floor.

All of this is probably within your reach now. But why don’t you take a few minutes after you finish reading this blog to test out your abilities. Do all the stuff I outlined above, with not too much of a break in between, and see how you do. If it is a little or a lot tough, keep at it! It will get easier, and you will still be able to brush your hair and get off the toilet as you age! I’d say that active aging is a reward in and of itself.

Check out more great ideas like this from our staff!  Click below for more best practices from NIFS.

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Topics: active aging senior fitness staying active core strength ADL planks activities of daily living functional movement