EXERCISE AND FITNESS FOR THE ELDERLY
By Nikki Carrion, MA
Co-owner; Fit Xpress LLC
Benefits of Physical Activity
- Reduced risk of heart disease by improving blood circulation
throughout the body.
- Weight control.
- Used together with proper nutrition…weight loss.
- Assists in the prevention of Type II diabetes, as well as
various other lifestyle-related diseases.
- Helps to maintain, or to lower, blood pressure.
- Reduction in cholesterol & increase in HDL’s is likely.
- Boosts existing levels of energy.
- Helps to manage stress by releasing tension.
- Likely to improve self-image/self-concept
- Increase in bone density and prevention of bone deterioration.
- Counters anxiety and depression.
- Increases optimism & zest for life.
- Opportunity to share activities with friends & family.
- Promotes peaceful sleep patterns.
- IN THE OLDER POPULATION: Helps to delay and/or prevent the
onset of chronic illnesses & diseases associated with aging. Thereby,
helping individuals to maintain “quality” of life, mobility & independence.
10 Great Stretches for Active Aging
“Ready? Here we go…from head to toe”
To begin…understand that a static stretch (one
that is held) must be held for at least 20 seconds in order to be effective.
Longer is alright, but shoot for at least 20 seconds. A dynamic stretch (one
that is moving) must be done slowly and smoothly. BOTH require a breathing
pattern that is relaxed and even.
- Rotation (turn the head to the right and hold…then left and
hold…repeat several times)
- Lateral flexion (right ear to the right & hold…then left and
hold…repeat several times)
- Forward flexion (chin down & hold…then sweep it back and forth
across the chest…repeat)
- NOTE: DO NOT take the head back / no full circles.
- Wings of a bird: Take the hands behind the back
and clasp one wrist (arms like wings). Open the arms/wings as far as possible,
keeping the head above your shoulders (avoid jutting the chin forward).
- Back stroke.
Alternating…long arm reaches forward, up & back.
- Rainbows: Standing sideways to a wall, extend the arm against the
wall with the entire arm, shoulder-to-palm, in contact. Exhale the arm/palm up
the wall and inhale back to the starting point.
- Elbows: From the elbow, bend & straighten the arm repeatedly.
- Wrists: Rotate in both directions, making sure to rotate from the
- Fist and fling: Reach fingers open wide…make a fist…repeat, repeat.
- Finger circles: Ends of the fingers touching (fingers of R hand
touching the tips of the fingers of the L hand). Make circles w/ thumbs…then
with the index fingers…then the middle fingers…etc.
- Spine: (sit up tall and keep the shoulders level for best
- Rotation: Lay the left hand on the right leg, and grab the frame of
the chair behind with the right hand. The shoulders should be parallel to the
floor / level, turning only as far as comfort allows and hold 20 seconds or
- Lateral flexion: Drop the right arm down by the side. Reaching down with
the fingertips of the R hand, reach straight up with the fingertips of the L
hand. Drop the R side of the ribcage and lift the L side of the ribcage. Do
the same to the opposite side, holding each for at least 20 seconds. If
shoulder pain is an issue, leave the hands on the lap and bend the torso. NOTE:
Bend as far as comfort allows.
- Forward flexion & rear extension: With both feet planted on the floor
shoulder width apart, put the hands on the lap and drop the chin toward the
chest. Slightly round the middle of the back toward the chair, flexing
vertebrae open. Hold for 20 seconds or more. Slowly sit back up and repeat #2
- Quads (thighs):
- Turn to the right in a chair that has no arms. Drop the left knee straight
down toward the floor (head up) & focus on the stretch in front of the left
leg. Turn and repeat on the opposite side.
8. Hamstrings (back of the leg) & calves:
- Sit on the front edge of the chair. Extend the R leg and flex the toes up
toward the ceiling. Drop the chest forward. Feel the stretch up the back of
the extended leg and into the hip; no back pain.
- Ankle slowly rotates, as if to trace the face of a clock. Go clockwise with
the R foot and counter-clockwise with the L foot.
- Point the toes away…flex the toes towards the chin…repeat several.
- The crawl: With no shoes on, sit in a chair with feet flat on the
floor. Pull with the toes of both feet, crawling away. Slide the feet back
into place, crawl away again. Repeat several times.
- Draw the entire alphabet, or draw the names of family members, with your
right foot. Repeat with the left foot.
- Brain/ankle exercise: Try writing the alphabet backwards.
If time is an issue, do the stretches you are feel are most
needed for YOU on any given day. This will serve to increase the flexibility of
your joints, thereby increasing your level of mobility! Additional benefits of
performing daily stretches:
- Helps to prevent arthritis, and often serves to lessen the
pain for those who have it.
- Serves to increase balance and stability.
- Is often the best treatment for muscle cramps.
- Improves posture and alignment.
- Enhances development of strength.
- Creates the relaxation response.
- Slows the breathing rate, reduces mental stress and blood
- Research has shown falls among the senior population are often
due to low levels of mobility, compromising the ability to balance. Reduced
mobility is often a direct result of reduced levels of flexibility.
Co-Owner; FitXpress LLC
Health Promotion Consulting