As we age, it is important to nourish our bodies with effective and efficient exercise. When we’re young, we can get away with less-than-optimal movement patterns with little consequence. Remember how you were able to go to your soccer game after 4 hours of sleep and a venti Starbucks Frappuccino for breakfast and come out just fine? That ability declines as we age and our cells become less tolerant to poor lifestyle habits.
Exercise is one of the most vital components of longevity. Why not pick the most ideal exercises that will keep your body healthy and rejuvenated? Certain exercises have better “bang for your buck” than others. Here are 3 common exercises that could use an upgrade:
- Instead of sit-ups, do planks
Crunches feel as though they are working are core but they’re really just working our rectus abdominus muscles. Sit-ups feel like a great core exercise but they are actually mostly working the iliopsoas (hip flexor). These muscles are not spinal stabilizers but rather only function to flex the spine. Our core is actually made up of 4 muscles that surround our trunk and provide spinal stability. These muscles include the diaphragm, transverse abdominus, multifidi, and our pelvic floor muscles. The job of the core is to resist motion in the spine, aka “stabilize”. Planks are far superior to sit-ups. They activate the core muscles and shoulder muscles. The military now includes a plank test in their physical fitness test! Sit-ups can actually be a cause of low back pain because they compress the discs of your back. After 30 it is best to erase sit-ups from your routine entirely in favor of other exercises such as planks of various kinds. Even a “pike” exercise with feet on the stability ball would be better for your back than sit-ups and still activate the same muscles. LINK TO YOUTUBE PLAYLIST TITLED “STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE”
- Instead of the leg press, do lunges
When targeting the big leg muscles (quadriceps, glutes, and hamstring muscles), lunges will accomplish much more than the leg press machine. Many leg press machines position the body in a lot of lumbar flexion which puts damaging stress on the spine when under load. If you have tight hip joints or hamstrings, the leg press will force your legs into a position which may strain your back. Lunges on the other hand challenge your balance and provide more core stimulation. They do not limit your range of motion like a machine does. The split stance allows for more gluteal activation which is important for back, knee, and ankle health. You’ll probably notice that they’re a lot more challenging than leg press. This is a good thing! We could all use more balance training in our workouts, especially as we age and the systems that control our balance become less active. LINK TO YOUTUBE PLAYLIST TITLED “LUNGE VARIATIONS”
- Instead of deadlifts, do single leg deadlifts/drinking bird
Deadlifts are a great exercise for working the back of your body – which in physical therapy/fitness language we call the “posterior chain” musculature. In order to have a healthy back, neck, hips, knees, and ankles, we NEED to do lots of posterior chain activation. It is called a posterior chain because of how all the muscles on the back of the body work together to produce efficient movement. If any one of the muscles in the chain is not functioning properly or is weak, than the entire system is weak, causing compensation patterns to develop, which leads eventually to pain and injury. However, a single leg deadlift or ‘drinking bird’ exercise can accomplish posterior chain activation while integrating balance. The drinking bird exposes any mobility deficits you may have in your hips which can give you valuable information about things you may need to work on. They challenge ankle stability more as well. Unilateral training (one leg at a time) is incredibly important to have in any workout routine. Why? Because if you only do things on both legs or with both arms and the same time (called bilateral training) than the strong side will compensate for the weak side without you even realizing it. Check out our drinking bird exercise video on our youtube channel to learn the best way to do it.
The bottom line is that we must keep moving throughout our lives to stay healthy and thriving. Modification of movement and activity is a normal part of aging. If you don’t have time to spend all day exercising (who does?), focus on performing exercises that accomplish many things, such as the ones we mention here. It is also important to “change up” your routine regularly. More on that in another blog post! So make sure you check out our youtube channel for more ideas, or join our group classes so you can work with us in a small group setting and make sure you are doing the exercises properly. You will learn unique exercises in our classes that you will not learn ANYWHERE else – all under the watchful eye of our expert instructors. Try out a class today so you can begin to thrive in ways you never thought possible.