Take your fingers out of your ears and listen to me! You. Are. Going. To. Get. Old. Unless you don’t. Get strong now and make it easier on yourself. “Nobody wants to think about fixing the roof while the sun is shining,” says actor Rob Lowe, in a recent SF Chronicle article, as keynote speaker for an event on aging, where he talked about donning a “suit” that stimulates being in an older body. The suit includes a helmet that stifles hearing and vision; heavy, imbalanced boots; restrictive fabric that gives the effect of arthritis in the knees, hands, spine and elbows; and sleeves weighed down to imitate muscle loss. The truth is that moving around, getting out of chairs or up off the floor is harder as you get older and more so if you are carrying extra weight. On top of that, as explained in a WebMD article, beginning“…in your 30s, you begin to lose muscle mass and function, a condition known as age-related sarcopenia.”. Being active helps counteract this ongoing muscle loss.
Rob Lowe credits his youthful looks to surfing, skiing, CrossFit, running, and swimming. He, along with many of us, hope to live our golden years with gusto. Many individuals in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are living full lives, while others are walker-users who can barely get out of a chair and ambulate. Some are active but have begun falling and, in some cases, have difficulty getting up. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in people over 65 according to the New York Times, Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation. To get up off the floor uses nearly every muscle in your body plus a fair amount of flexibility, not to mention putting a tremendous amount of weight on your wrists, and knees. To get up from a chair and stand takes strength in your chest, arms, gluteals, shoulders, legs, core, and ankles. The stronger you are, the less chance of these basic movements being a problem. Don’t wait until you have a crisis to start getting stronger.
How are you preparing for physically aging? I know, you’re not old yet and you’re in decent shape, lots of energy, walk on the treadmill, do Zumba, and garden. When was the last time you had a physical assessment to determine your strengths, weaknesses, and flexibility? Does your current exercise program strengthen ALL the muscles shown in this picture and include balance and flexibility exercises?
Why not prepare to excel in aging, just as you have for other events in your life…running a marathon, getting a good grade in a class, planning a big work project, assuring your kids turn out okay. You plan ahead. You prepare. You put your heart into it. You practice. You get competitive. You envision the outcome you want. Do that now with your fitness. Make a Plan.
A personal trainer can help you. First, we will conduct a fitness assessment to find imbalances or weaknesses and then help you develop a program to address them. You can quickly begin to make changes in your strength and flexibility. Participants in my Gymformee-Introduction to the Gym class, an ongoing offering at Body Kinetics, where I work, demonstrated better balance and strength gains after just eight classes.
A testimony to the power of daily effort, this man improved his flexibility and was able to touch his toes after just 41 days of practice.
TWO SIMPLE TESTS YOU CAN TRY AT HOME
Get Up Off the Floor Test
Simply lower down to the floor, sit, and stand back up. If you are able to do so without assistance from any limbs, you score 10 points, 5 for getting up and 5 for getting down.
10 Points Possible as pictured here
Subtract 1 point each, both for standing up and sitting down, using assistance from a hand, knee, forearm, hand on knee, or side of leg.
This test not only assesses flexibility, balance, strength, and mobility, but may also be a measure of your mortality according to a study conducted by Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araujo. These two links (Simple Sitting Test Predicts How Long You’ll Live) and (RQOW: Getting Up From the Floor) further describe the study, the test, and provide a link to a YouTube video of the original test.
Stand up, Sit Down Test
Arms crossed, touching chest, rise to full stand, return to fully seated, as many times as possible in 30 seconds. Below is an excerpt from the Senior Fitness Test Manual table ranking you with individuals your age at 95 percentile ranking. If you’re younger than 60 you can still see how you compare.
PRACTICE TO DO AT HOME
Practice getting off the floor daily.
Sit on the floor to do something (put on your socks, eat off the coffee table, etc.) so you have to get up. Or just practice – check out this link for a “how to” .
Using a chair or other assistance can lessen pressure on joints. If you have back, hip, wrist, or knee issues, check with your doctor first for the safest way to get up off the floor.
Make a Habit of Getting Out of Your Chair Unassisted
Notice how you get out of your chairs during your day. Do you have the habit of using the arm rests? If so, change to standing up unassisted. Even better, do chair squats or regular squats everyday. (For knee safety, as you squat back it’s hips, not knees, first, then weight back on heels as you slowly lower; knees stay behind toes.)
Studies show any amount of regular exercise will benefit you! If you want to get amazing results and become functionally younger than you are today, take this advice from the authors of Younger Next Year, on the secret to great health, “You should exercise hard almost every day of your life – say six days a week. And do strength training…two of those six days. Exercise is the great key to aging.”
Take Action Now! Make a plan yourself or enlist the help of a personal trainer, but get going. Plan for six days of exercise to include:
Components of an Overall Fitness Program
- Strength training: two times per week
- Aerobic/“Cardio” activities: 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity (less minutes with high intensity workouts)
- Flexibility (Yoga, Pilates) two times per week
- Balance: daily
The good news is that by working hard and getting strong, you can feel better immediately and benefit for the rest of your life.
Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D., Younger Next Year, Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 2007, p. 14