by Kelly Brown • photography by Two Eagles Marcus
The benefits of exercise are too numerous to count. And while short-term goals like weight loss, fitting into that dress or muscle definition are all totally valid reasons to get to the gym, they don’t compare to the significant long-term benefits of a regular workout routine. Age-related decline in muscle and bone mass leads to a frail frame, poor posture and alignment issues, making it harder to lead an independent life as an older adult. Luckily, the solution is as simple as this: Just move.
Kim Brown, A West Michigan 200 hour certified yoga teacher, Beer City Barre instructor and personal trainer, shares her top tips for keeping your body young.
Protect Your Feet
“If you look at senior’s feet, they tend to start curving inward,” Brown explained. “You even see this in a lot of younger people.”
To keep the feet young and spry, ready to hold you and take you on any adventure, simply sit with legs extended and stretch out your toes.
“In yoga, it’s called ‘active feet’,” she said. “I tell my older clients to stretch the feet and toes every day.”
March in Place
If you’re not ready to go out on a long walk, start with marching in place.
“This covers a few different things. It works the muscles in the legs, which are the biggest muscle groups and in turn gets the heart to work harder.”
To start, stand up and lift the knees towards the chest with arms relaxed by your side. Alternate feet and add a gentle arm swing when you’re ready.
“The impact of your feet on the ground helps the bones and builds density,” Brown emphasized.
Sit Up Straight
“Keep that posture,” Brown said. “This keeps your core strong because you have to use the back and ab muscles to hold you up. Many of the chairs older adults sit in are squishy, so they slouch. It’s as easy as sitting up straight.”
Train Lightly With Weights
Brown advises utilizing average household items, or 2-3 lb weights and do seated arm work. Do slow lateral raises, lifting and lowering, bicep curls—anything to keep the muscles in the arms strong.
“Another option is elevated push-ups,” she explains. “ Place your hands on the kitchen counter, a ledge or sturdy chair. Body weight is one of the best ways to build muscle.”
“Move everyday,” Brown advised. “Move everything. Stretch the joints. If you’re just moving and stretching, and thinking of all the different ways you can, that is so important.”
Best movement you can get in every day? A simple walk. Strap on your comfy shoes and explore your neighborhood.
Stretch the Upper Body
It’s important to keep the mobility in your spine and sides as you age. The ability to reach to the top shelf for a book, or bend forward to tie your shoes is important when it comes to independence.
“Move side to side, forward and back, and twist,” Brown said. “It’s not just the spine, though. It’s the ribs, chest and side too that need the movement.”
Kelly Brown is a writer, marketer and egg-eater. Her writing has been published across Michigan and the US. When she isn’t writing, she works full-time at Green Giftz, instructs at Beer City Barre, and attends classes at CrossFit 616.