It’s still shocking to see someone older lifting weights at the gym. As good as it is!
We have to change the chip: we associate sport with youth, with a stage of physical fullness, competition and achieving great challenges. As the years go by, we lower our demands, the bar of aspirations, until many people with the first ailments hang up their shoes. It still catches our attention to see an older person lifting weights in the gym, in a track meet, or swimming. A mistake. Doing sports from the age of 70 is just as necessary, or more, than when we are young, doctors warn. Of course, there are especially beneficial exercises.
«Of all the strategies that can be applied to stop the symptoms of aging, physical activity is one of the first. There are innumerable chronic diseases that could be delayed in time if we simply practiced sports. It is the best anti-aging drug”, says Dr. Ángel Durántez, author of the book ‘Young at 100. Keys to living longer and better’ (La Esfera de los Libros).
The WHO has set the time that must be reserved for exercise when entering old age: a minimum of 150 minutes a week, although for the greatest benefit it should reach 300. We will include aerobic activity, exercises that strengthen the locomotor system two or three times a week and three sessions to improve balance and flexibility.
what to work
“The older population should combine different types of training, which include exercises to adapt to daily tasks,” says Germán Vicente-Rodríguez, a Physical Education teacher. He agrees on the need for a program that combines aerobic work, walking, strength, resistance, power, balance and functional training – real life movements –, which is called multicomponent training. The physiotherapist Mikel Junquera details some activities and their benefits.
Endurance . These exercises improve cardiac and respiratory capacity and increase the energy to carry out daily activities such as climbing stairs, moving around, shopping…
Strengthening . They improve muscle tone. They help give you more independence to do things on your own, from getting up from a chair to grooming yourself or carrying weights. They improve metabolism, in such a way that they contribute to maintaining the level of sugar in the blood and the weight and prevent osteoporosis, one of the problems at this stage.
Balance . Balance exercises are essential, since they prevent a frequent problem in older people: falls, which can cause major injuries such as hip fractures.
Flexibility. They help maintain the elasticity of the body by elongating tissues and muscles. They also improve the autonomy of the elderly in their daily life by facilitating their movements.
What specific sports
We know what physical faculties have to be worked on, but with what specific sports or activities is it achieved? The two anti-aging experts recommend these specialties.
Go by bike. Taking bike rides favors cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles and joints. The intensity of the rhythm and the duration of the journeys must be adapted to the conditions of each one. An option for people with more limitations is to pedal on an exercise bike or use an elliptical.
Walk . At a good pace it is one of the most effective exercises for the elderly. It has the advantage that it is easy, cheap and can be carried out in any environment. And if we walk in nature we add the benefits of avoiding pollution.
Practice yoga, tai-chi, pilates.. . They use breathing, correct posture and work on flexibility, muscle toning, balance and relaxation. Of course, they require learning the technique.
Swimming and exercises in the water. Swimming is one of the most complete sports for all ages and presents little risk of injury. Both swimming and exercising in the water activate the heart, tone the muscles and alleviate joint pain, which is common among the elderly.
Exercises at the gym or home
The physiotherapist proposes some exercises.
To work the balance. Lean on one foot, on the heels (toes up) or on tiptoes; walk keeping different materials in balance (on the palms of the hands, a bottle, a ball). Standing, with your legs at shoulder height, shift your weight from one leg to the other, while raising your heel and crouching down a bit on the way. With or without the support of one hand on the wall, and on the side, we raise one leg with the knee bent and then the other.
Strengthen arms, back and legs. Stand with your hands resting on the wall with your arms outstretched and your feet further back than your shoulders. From that position, bend your elbows and stretch them, as if you were going to kiss the wall and return to the starting position.
Get up and sit in a chair increasing speed and including loads –an 8 kilo kettlebell for example, held with both hands. Another option: go up and down a step –from 20 to 40 centimeters– playing with speed and weights.
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