Pushups: This exercise works the same muscles as the chest press, but it also stretches them while training the core muscles to stabilize your torso and protect your lower back. Not many older people can do traditional pushups, with your hands and feet on the floor. Fortunately, you can make it easier without losing any benefits by elevating your hands on a bench or step, a kitchen counter, or even a wall. Check out the elevated pushup in the video below.
Endurance decreases as we age. In one extensive study of more than 3,000 70-79-year-old men and women, researchers investigated the relationship between the speed at which these subjects walked ¼ of a mile and their risk of premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, and mobility limitation. The results showed that those with the slowest walk times (>6 minutes) had a higher risk of death, cardiovascular disease, and mobility limitation than those who walked the distance in less than four and a half minutes. In fact, every additional minute of walking time was associated with higher and higher degrees of risk; approximately 13% of the participants could not even complete the distance due to fatigue or symptoms such as breathlessness, cramping, etc.
The good news is that the loss of strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance aren't inevitable. The National Institute on Aging believes that "when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they have aged. More likely it is because they have become inactive." (Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging)
In a large study of 439 adults (aged 60 and older) with osteoarthritis who did either aerobic exercise (walking) or resistance exercise (weight lifting) for 18 months, participants in the aerobic exercise group had a 10% decrease on a physical disability questionnaire, a 12% lower score on a knee pain questionnaire, and outperformed non-exercising individuals in the study on the following tests: a six-minute walk test (they walked further); the time it took them to climb and descend stairs; the time it took them to lift and carry 10 pounds; and the time it took them to get in and out of a car. In the weight-lifting, group, there was an 8% lower score on the physical disability questionnaire, 8% lower pain score, greater distance on the six-minute walk, and faster times on the lifting and carrying task and the car task than in the individuals in the study who did not exercise.
Lifting everyday objects like a suitcase or a gallon-size jug of water can become more difficult as you age. Arm curls will strengthen the muscles involved with these movements. Either seated or standing, hold hand weights down at your sides with palms facing up and elbows tucked in, then bend your elbows and lift the weights toward your chest. Hold each repetition for about 1 second, then slowly lower the arms; do a set of 10 reps, rest, and repeat another set.
You guessed it. It decreases. The good news is that some studies, but not all, show improvements in flexibility when individuals engage in exercise programs that involve stretching exercises. Unfortunately, the studies on flexibility in the aging population aren't as complete as they are for studies of strength and endurance, but the studies do suggest that significant improvements in the range of motion of various joints (neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle) can occur when stretching exercises are prescribed. It's just that it isn't clear how much flexibility training older adults should do to maintain good range of motion and joint function.
Traditional push-ups are a great way to work muscles in the arms, shoulders, and chest; however, they can be difficult to complete correctly. You can modify this exercise and still get health benefits by doing wall push-ups. Face a blank wall while standing about arm’s length away, lean forward, and press your palms flat against the wall. Bend your arms and slowly bring your upper body toward the wall, hold for a moment, and push yourself back until your arms are straight again. Do a set of 10 reps, rest, and repeat another set.
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