Getting older is part of life. It is no secret that an aging population is one of the fastest growing demographics in the health and fitness industry. “Baby Boomers” comprise the generation born between 1946 and 1964 — a generation that is living longer and more productively, making a stronger investment in their health and well-being, and staying active well into their golden years.
Many of my clients who are over 50 train with me for a myriad of reasons, but one of the biggest is to “feel better.” Quality of life is a big motivator for this group of individuals, and staying active is a big part of that equation. The old adage “use it or lose it” hold true in this case. Daily trips to the gym may no longer be a necessity, but its good to stay active by engaging in activities like walking, hiking, tennis, swimming, or dancing. Being active keeps your body and mind working as a team. Activities that increase your heart rate will build a strong cardiovascular and respiratory system, and help release endorphins to improve your mood. Activities that challenge your coordination and balance will excite your neuromuscular system, and keep your brain functioning as well as your body. Staying active is one of the most important factors in keeping your body functioning properly, however, as we age we must consider some additional important factors.
Years of sitting at desk jobs or heavy labor work can wreak havoc on the body from a structural standpoint. Postural correction and corrective exercise are large parts of my programming with clients over 50. Making sure the body is mobile and in proper postural alignment can make a world of difference in overall well-being and injury prevention. Simple and effective exercises that help increase joint mobility and return the body to its natural state of posture will allow a person to feel stronger, move better, and proceed with activities with less worry of injury. Corrective exercise techniques can often alleviate knee, hip, lower back, shoulder, and neck pain. Anyone who has ever experienced these can attest to the fact that they can be debilitating and frustrating. Exercises that increase deep core strength and strengthen weak muscles (often associated with poor posture) will make a client more functional and lead to a better quality of life.
Increasing joint mobility also increases range of motion, and allows clients to perform movements better and without pain. Tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and mobility bands can help release tension in over-active muscles, thus allowing the joint to perform in its proper range of motion. Overactive muscles in areas around a joint can often lead to tendonitis of a joint, which can be exacerbated by everyday activities and movements. Spending 5-10 minutes a day using mobility tools can make a world of difference.
Incorporating weight-bearing exercises helps to increase lean muscle tissue as well as increased bone density. As we age, this is important because maintaining muscle mass keeps both our metabolism and our bodies strong. Decreased bone density makes people susceptible to broken bones, which can result in a temporary or even permanent ability to stay active and makes someone more injury prone as they continue to age. Adding resistance to a workout can be done via body weight exercises like push-ups, with dumbbells, resistance bands, or any other tool that increases the load on a movement.
Balance and stabilization is something that we lose as we age. It’s always shocking to many of my clients how hard it can be to perform simple balance exercises. When the body is able to balance properly, it is less likely result in a fall. From an injury prevention standpoint, this is imperative for an aging client base. In the unfortunate event of a fall, a client with a better sense of stability and balance is less likely to sustain injury. Incorporating balance and stability into a workout is quite simple: performing exercises on 1 leg instead of 2, or using balance boards and foam pads add a safe amount of instability to a movement, and allow a client to enrich an exercise safely and slowly. Using single arm movements and performing exercises that would traditionally be done on machines in a standing position are all ways to increase the stabilization requirement of a movement.
As you can see, there are just a few simple things that athletes over 50 can incorporate into a lifestyle that can keep them active and healthy for years to come. By adding these simple steps into one’s daily life, a person over the age of 50 can continue to be an all-star at the gym, lead a pain-free active lifestyle, reduce chronic pain, be healthy, “feel better,” or all of the above. I have clients who boast that they are in the best shape of their lives now, versus when they were in their twenties. Who says you can’t be 50 and fabulous? Or 60, or 70 or 80 or… well, you get the point!
For more information or to book a class, visit www.phoenixeffectla.com.
The Phoenix Effect, a functional group fitness studio that gets you in shape fast, is offered exclusively at 7264 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA.