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Four… No Nine! Exercises for Seniors

April 9th, 2017 No comments

Simple exercises, necessary exercises, and fun exercises: find something you like!

Our population is aging steadily, and North American culture is getting older. People are living longer, staying healthier and more vibrant thanks to dietary changes, increased attention to exercise, and improvements in health care sciences. How can we live even longer and feel even better as we age? How do seniors avoid the need for in home physiotherapy or in home care? How do you recover from surgery or from a fall and prevent future health problems? There's one huge step you can take: regular exercise.

 

Seniors-and-rubber-bands-2010-amica-whitby-_MG_7328-598-x-298

If you exercise every day or even two or three times a week, this will go a long ways toward extending your life and avoiding unnecessary pain and agony. Exercise can go a long way toward removing "those little aches and pains" that are unnecessary and actually add stress to your day, and to your physical wellness. These stressors add up and will increase your need for home care  or even assisted living retirement homes. Although these are great services for seniors, you want to delay your need for these as long as possible, and live as happily and healthily as you can every day. With that in mind, here are a variety of exercises you can do in your own home that will improve your sense of balance and increase your overall health.

Centre of Gravity Training

Reduce your imbalance, helps you stay nimble. You can use exercises below simply by standing on a solid floor. Others use simple tools like stability balls or foam pads, steps, etc.

Exercise:
  1. Stand sideways to a wall, holding on to the wall.
  2. Shift your weight to the centre of your foot closest to the wall. Form a "tripod" with your big toe, little toe, and heel so that you feel your whole foot, then lift the arch for extra support
  3. Raise your other foot slowly, from the floor, gradually shifting all your weight onto your other foot, closer to the wall. Bend your other leg bent at all three of the hip, knee, and ankle.
  4. Focus on a point directly in front of you then let go of the wall. Now, keep your balance as long as possible, with that one foot on the ground. If you tip, get back into position. If you are able to hold this for half a minute or more, your sense of balance is good.

Do this several times a day if you like. Try it while standing on a soft foam pad. Try it with your eyes closed. This is a simple exercise you can pick up and drop as you see fit.

Multi-sensory training

Maintains all your sensory systems: eyesight, inner ear working, muscle receptors. Perform with or without props like stability ball or chairs.

Seniors-oriented exercise:
  1. Walk along a hallway, following closely along the wall
  2. Then place one foot directly in front of the other as you walk, like you are balancing on a tightrope. Feel how your feet and ankles are working, as your support base narrows
  3. Then touch the heel of your front foot to the top of the back one. Turn your head to the side and keep walking as you were. Notice how not looking makes this more difficult.
  4. Now, walk with heel to toe while holding a book in your eyesight.

You have now challenged another one of the systems that assists your balance: the visual. By reading something up close you will throw off the signals coming from your peripheral vision that lets your brain know where your centre of gravity is in relation to your base of support.

Walking gait training

At any age, it can be important to improve or optimize the efficiency and flexibility of your walking gait. For seniors, exercising this aspect is especially important as you age. Improving your gait can help you avoid simple mishaps or serious falls.

Seniors-oriented exercise

Walk down a long corridor or sidewalk and pay attention to the height of your feet as you walk. Lift your feet properly, planting the heel first on the floor. Roll off the ball and the toes  of your back foot, lifting it off the ground and plant the heel in front of your other foot. Be conscious of this process as you take more steps, perhaps even calling out parts of the process as you do so. Then speed it up, remaining conscious of the rolling motion of your foot as you pace. This is proper gait training for seniors or anyone at any age and will improve your back, your posture. Of course, walking is a great exercise; walking properly is better.

Simple resistance training for seniors

All seniors should ideally include strength training as part of their exercise regimen. Exercises that focus on flexibility, strength and endurance look ahead to maintaining health and vitality for more time to come. Your musculoskeletal system is most vulnerable to decline, and benefits the most from advanced attention to the following types of exercises.

Exercise 1:
  1. Stand behind a chair, grab the back of the chair, with feet together but not touching.
  2. Inhale as you move downward into a crouch, as if you are sitting. Be careful not to strain yourself but push down exactly to the point where you feel a healthy resistance.
  3. Exhale as you stand up again.
  4. Repeat this ten times, so that you feel it in your thighs (quadriceps) and your butt (glutes).
Exercise 2 ideally suited to seniors
  1. Stand on your heels, and stretch out the arch of each foot, lower your feet back down then repeat this stretch for up to ten repetitions, so that you feel it in the back of the calf muscles.

More ways to exercise, ideally suited to seniors

There are other kinds of exercise that are ideally suited for seniors.

Golfing, loved by many seniors, of course: some who come to the game late and others who have waited to retire so they can golf more. There are many seniors' communities, in fact, that are built around golfing. Check out this list of Canadian active lifestyle communities with golf courses. Golf is excellent for a number of reasons: it encourages walking, gets people out into the fresh air, and also has a strong social element, which also has many healthy effects.

Yoga is a regimen of stretching that is truly ideally low impact. It stretches muscles, improves circulation and it also reduces stress.

Tai Chi is a suitably slow, low-impact regimen. Many seniors may not have heard of this ideal, fun way of working out. It combines disciplined exercise with social activity. It keeps you loosened up, improves circulation. John Evan was one senior we talked to who had a fall and hurt his back. "It was my own fault," he admitted, but he started on a Tai Chi program hosted in his retirement home in New Brunswick. Says Evans, "I don’t think I'd even heard of it till I came here. But it’s a great thing; it really keeps [me] loose and gives [me] strength."

Belly dancing is another activity that some senior women find they can relate to.  There are classes available that can be community-based while others will even tour retirement homes.

Working out is the common way that many seniors get exercise. The local World Gym I am a member of has a healthy dose of seniors in their clientele, many of them obviously enjoying their time in the gym. I also get into many retirement homes, which all have exercise rooms or gyms on site, and every one of these is plenty busy.

The bottom line is…. find something you love doing and do it regularly. That's the secret to keeping active at any age. If you don't like running, take up hiking, biking, golfing, or so many of the other choices above.

Watch the video below for more!

Categories: Cardio, cycling and fitness Tags:

Fitness Watches: a Review and Comparison

September 21st, 2014 No comments

Fitness watches are part of the latest trend back toward wrist-worn technology. You might have thought that wristwatches were going the way of the rotary dial telephone and floppy discs but wrist-worn tech is suddenly back in vogue. And there’s a great fit with fitness, especially jogging, as this is a lightweight and practical way of staying connected and measuring your activity.

Let’s check out some of the latest fitness watches on the market. Here’s a complete review to help you decide which fitness watch is the best for you. The watches we focus on here are the Garmin Vivofit, TomTom Runner Cardio and Samsung Gear Fit.

 

The Garmin Vivofit

This is a very comfortable watch with a small display that makes it look like just another watch on the market. The focus here is on absolute simplicity. It does not have a touchscreen or even a backlight or nightlight. This watch is focused entirely on measuring activity, with a switch that measures step count, distance, goal differential, calories burned and… the time and date. That’s it.

As sparse as the Vivofit is in features, it’s deft and nimble at getting you out and on your workout. Particularly notable is the red line that tells you that you’ve been sitting too long. When you want to run or workout the watch is ready to go with you – no messing or fussing as there is with more complex fitness watches. Because of its simplicity, this watch’s battery has been known to last as long as a year.

The Vivofit syncs with either a Garmin Connect app (assuming you have an account). Slim on features it also has the slimmest price of the most recent issues in fitness watches, under $200 MSRP.

The TomTom Runner Cardio is designed even more specifically for running, with a thicker, yet very comfortable strap, a backlight and a big, easy-to-read-while-you’re-running display. However, the navigation for this is a tad clunky. Moving through the menu is not easy and it might take you a minute to set things up before you head out. However the features are what make this so bulky. There’s an onboard GPS, a heart rate monitor, and a gage for pace, strides and even elevation. GPS mode wears out the battery but this still has a solid battery life if you’re just using it in the gym.

Wear and Working Out

This watch is not designed to be worn everywhere all the time, so if that’s what you are looking for, you may want to invest your money elsewhere. That also means that you need to remind yourself to put it on before working out and when you set the watch up for your workout, it takes a bit of navigating and setting. Your workout syncs to an app (iPhone only) or uploads to TomTom’s MySports service or to popular online trackers such as RunKeeper.

The Runner Cardio has the occasional lapse in step counting and can require an occasional reset.

The Cardio Runner is one of the most expensive of the latest collection of fitness watches; this is a commitment to fitness, at $300. As biometrics gets smarter and the market changes, the price of this and other fitness tech watches will come down.

The Samsung Gear Fit

This is the techiest watch, one that looks very go-go-gadgety. The touchscreen is curved and the interface is bright and easy-to-use. Features include a step tracker, alarm, heart rate monitor, GPS locator and controls that sync with your phone. That’s the key to this watch, it requires a Samsung phone. You’re not going to buy this unless you have a Samsung phone but if you do, this is an excellent accessory.

Once you have it set up and synced, working out is seamless. You can use it with Samsung’s S Health app, and data gets transferred to your phone regularly. The Gear Fit allows you to track progress in much greater detail than other fitness watches, with no fussing with uploading or wait times. In that way it is certainly superior to the TomTom Runner Cardio, for example. It also awards you medals for reaching goals.

The Gear Fit is known to occasionally lapse in counting and can require a reset once in a while. This is moderately priced at $200 MSRP.

brand Price Comfort Night Battery life Usability Feature set Style
Garmin Vivofit $190 5 N 5 4 2 3
TomTom Runner $300 5 Y 3 2 5 4
Samsung Gear Fit $200 4 Y 3 5 4 5

Check them out for yourself:
 

 

Categories: Cardio, Tips and Tricks Tags:

Physiological Profiling and Testing

August 18th, 2014 No comments

So what do you do when you think you have hit the limit of your training potential? Struggling to get over or hitting a wall at certain distances? Looking to improve particular aspects of your aerobic training? Physiologic profiling is what. Sounds a bit hi-tech doesn’t it? That’s because it really is. But through the mainstream adaption of machinery, combined with an increased desire for endurance and performance as well as athletes' desire for  a better understanding of their body’s reaction to exercise, physiological profiling has grown in popularity and usage.

What is a physiology profile?

Physiological profiling is essential to the enthusiastic athlete wanting to optimise training and monitor progress. No matter what your sport, physiologists can use cutting-edge equipment to identify important physiological variables in order to identify performance capabilities and individualised training zones.

profilingIn a BASES accredited laboratory a physiologist can identify your exercise economy and lactate threshold by assessing your physiological response to a range of submaximal exercise intensities (running, cycling or rowing). Gathering this information allows them to mark and set specific training zones in order to stimulate the adaptations most necessary to excel in a sport. Using Polar TEAM system® heart rate analysis, real-time and recorded readings allow them to prescribe individualised heart rate ranges for each prescribed training zone.

Following submaximal examination, an online expired air analysis system is used during a maximal exercise step test to allow the measurement of maximal aerobic capacity (VO2MAX).

Depending on the requirements of the athlete, they can then tailor a package to suit individuals' needs and measures. Options include:

  • Baseline blood tests and profiling (hematocrit & haemoglobin, iron & ferritin levels, etc.)
  • Specific measures of body composition using various methods (Bod Pod, skinfold measurements, bio-electrical impedance analysis)
  • Maximal power, strength tests and anaerobic capacity

What do you get from a physiology profile?

Using this type of tailored athlete reports, you and your coach can build a longitudinal physiological data profile in order to monitor progress and identify seasonal trends in physiological condition.

For some sports, particularly marathon running, verbal and report feedback will often include predicting pacing strategies and/or ‘safe paces’ in order to help maximise performance on race day.

The training data allows you to rest assured that every training session is pitched at the correct intensity and all training is optimised.

In other words the generation of a physiological profile will allow you to squeeze out every last drop of performance.

Are physiological profiles for me?

Only you and your body know if you would like to take your performance to the next level. If you are having trouble physiologically or you would like to know how your body reacts to physical pressure then they are certainly something you should think about. The cost of these tests are also coming down too, so they aren’t just the domain of professional athletes.

***

This article on physiological profiling was put together by Michael Nicol. Michael is the director of the St Mary’s Clinic Twickenham. The St Mary’s Clinic has a state-of-the-art BASES accredited physiological testing centre.

Categories: Cardio, working out Tags:

Splurge and Steal Cardio Equipment

July 5th, 2010 1 comment

Make good investments - or get great deals- when spending your fitness dollars
When it comes to cardio there are a lot of options. It can be difficult to know where to spend your hard earned money. Do you get one big ticket item and cross your fingers that you’ll put it to use, or do you trust that equipment costing less than $100 will give you everything you need. Here’s a list of some splurges and great steals so you know what you’re up against as you shop for cardio equipment.

Splurge
Treadmill - The most well-known piece of cardio equipment, fitness treadmills are also some of the most expensive. High end models that have all the things that make treadmills fun - such as individual programs, variable inclines, a wider range of speeds and high tech heart rate monitors and calorie counters - can cost home users upwards of several thousand dollars. Even a cheap store-brand treadmill will cost about $400, and that’s if it’s on sale. If you’ve ever used a health club quality treadmill you might find yourself disappointed if you choose to settle for a relatively lower priced model for your home. So if you’re going to splurge for one of these cardio machines, you might as well go the distance and get one you will actually like.
Elliptical - Ellipticals offer smooth motion and low-impact aerobic exercise, which is why so many people love using them. Many have moveable handles so you’ll benefit from a total body workout. And if you get one with a good range of incline you’ll be able to work your lower body from a variety of angles, including several that will really target your butt and thighs. I myself have tried a few cheaper elliptical trainers that cost their purchasers as little as $150 to $300, but without incline and the ----- to change resistance I found the workouts they lacking. If you choose to splurge on one of these make sure you try it out thoroughly before you buy.

Steal
Mini steppers - For about $50 you can get one of these compact pieces of equipment that’ll tone your butt while raising your heart rate. Some of these machines come with attached resistance cords so you can work your arms at the same time. The best part about the mini stepper isn’t the price though, it’s the size. They are small enough to store in a cupboard, and you can even put them under your desk to get a bit of cardio in while you work.
BOSU ball - You might be thinking that a BOSU ball isn’t a cardio machine because it has no motor or even moving parts, but you’d be doing yourself a big disservice. I think it’s what you do with the equipment that counts, and with a BOSU you can do almost anything. These oddly-shaped wonders (they look like half a stability ball attached to a flat platform) give you the butt toning benefit of a step, combined with an uneven surface that forces your body to use core stabilizing muscles at every move. Like mini steppers, some BOSUs have resistance cords attached so you can target your entire body and up the calorie burn.
Hula hoop - I know what you’re thinking. Those aren’t cardio equipment, they’re children’s toys. That may be true, but there aren’t many other kids toys that’ll burn this many calories and help you lose inches off your entire body (while making you feel years younger), unless of course you count the skipping rope.

How to Jump Rope

June 19th, 2009 No comments

Before I get into this post I should let you know that I am no jump rope expert, just someone who recently researched the art of skipping so I could apply the correct technique to my practise and to group fitness classes I will occasionally be leading. What I learned is this - you don't have to be perfect to get benefits from skipping, but you should be aware of your form and try to improve it so you can reduce joint impact and make it safer and more enjoyable - the same rule that applies to any fitness activity you take up.

Warm-up

Before jumping right in it's a must to warm up the muscles and get some lubrication flowing to the joints. Otherwise you may end up tired achy after just a few minutes. A good warm-up involves dynamic movements for the upper and lower body. Marching in place, side step taps and the boxer's shuffle will do the job for your legs. Prepare the upper body by doing shoulder shrugs, arm circles and making the arm movements without a rope. About five minutes of progressive warming-up should do it.

Jump in

Prepare by jumping lightly, with one foot touching down a split second before the other (like the boxer's shuffle) or with both feet landing softly at the same time. You should feel springy on your feet. If you start skipping from a dead stop it can be harder to get into a rhythm. Practise jumping into the rope for a few minutes, even if you get it on your first attempt. Swing the rope from one side of your body to the other, bringing it wide when it's in front of your body so you'll have lots of space to jump in. Once you can jump in and out of the rope consistently, try to jump in while your arms are crossed.

Technique

  • Jumping - Big, klunky jumps are best to be avoided. To ensure skipping is somthing you'll want to do and be able to keep doing, strive for maintaining soft knees and performing low jumps, with the rope close to the top of your head and no slack in it. Land on the balls of your feet and let your entire foot absorb the impact.
  • Speed - To begin with focus on form instead of speed or length of time you can skip. Play it like you did as a kid and try to make it to 20 jumps. When you reach that number try to make it to 30, 40 and so on. You won’t feel as pressured to do more than your cardiovascular system can handle. Before you know it you’ll have reached the one minute mark and beyond. On the other hand, once you get the hang of it, skipping too slowly can cause the rope to catch on your feet. Try to work up to a good beginner pace of 60 to 70 turns per minute. Often choosing the right jump rope can make it easier to get up to speed.
  • Torso - Keep your back straight and don't bend forward from the waist.
  • Wrists, Arms and shoulders - Turn the rope with your wrists and keep your elbows close to the sides of your body. Power should come from your forearms, not your shoulders.

There you have it. Everything I know about skipping. If you want to know more check out pros like Buddy Lee, who have created instructional DVDs and jump rope workouts. Or you can try this simple 10 minute routine (link coming soon). Now get out there and try it already.