You may not be able to keep your looks as you get older, but you can keep your strength and balance.
It's hard to accept middle age. For many folks, it always seems to be about 10 years away. But if you think of living until you’re 90, then it clearly follows that middle age starts around 45.
Here’s the hard part: when you’re that age – or older – you need to work out for function, rather than looks.
You may be immediately concerned about the cosmetics of underarm jiggle or love handles, but building strength in the muscles under that flab (triceps and obliques) is far more important.
The toughest fact to face is that at mid-life, the human body rarely has the same potential to be as tight and toned as it did 20 years earlier.
But as your body goes through these changes, your interests change as well.
You become less concerned about how you look in swim wear, because it’s more important to be able to take a full flight of stairs quickly, or carry a 18kg child or a heavy bag of pet food.
You might not be able to keep your looks as you get older, but you can keep your strength and balance.
Increasing your strength and balance will help prevent falls.
Falls are the biggest cause of disability in those 65 and older, with broken hips and traumatic brain injuries topping the list, so it makes good sense to work out for real life fitness, rather than some imagined cosmetic ideal.
There are also other important considerations: hundreds of studies show that those who train to be functional will usually heal faster after a fall, and will also have less chance of serious injury if they do fall.
You don’t have to join a gym or hire a personal trainer to condition your body to be more functional.
Make it a part of your everyday life. For example, don’t sit down to put on your socks or pants.
Do it while standing up. This, of course, means you’ll have to balance while standing on one foot, then the other.
At first, most people won’t be capable of the balance required to perform this action.
They will be wobbly or will have to “dab” with the other foot to stay upright.
That’s OK. Learning to balance on each foot while the rest of the body is actively moving to put on clothing is extremely functional.
You’ll instinctively learn how to handle the mass of your body weight in numerous positions.
It’s physical knowledge that can help you prevent a fall if you do get off balance.
Weight-bearing exercises build strength whether you’re a young adult or a senior citizen.
These movements can be as simple as lying down on the floor and doing push-ups, or holding dumbbells on your shoulders and doing squats.
In fact, if you search the topic of exercises for older adults, you’ll find hundreds of links to various kinds of fitness routines.
Choose a programme that eliminates your weaknesses.
If your muscles are stiff and inflexible, as they often become when you don’t move around a lot, look for a routine that explains how to warm up and stretch.
Keep your muscles flexible and pliable. Purchase several pairs of dumbbells of different weight, and search for “dumbbell exercises” online.
Put together a routine that works major muscle groups such as the front and back of arms and thighs.
You can even use elastic cording or rubber tubing to exercise at home.
This stuff is sold by the foot at many outdoors shops and physical therapy centres. Buy a 5m length and tie a small loop at one end, and a loop at the other end large enough to slip your foot into.
Put the small loop around an indoor door knob, bring the rest under the door, and shut the door.
Now put your foot into the large loop. Facing the door, step back until the elastic is tight, then slide that foot backwards.
This will build strength in the hamstrings at the back of the thigh.
Pulling the elastic tight again, grip the large loop in a fist and lift up, doing a biceps curl.
Turn your hand with the fingers down and slowly lower the taut elastic. This works the triceps at the back of the arm.
“Couch crunches” strengthen the abdominals, and are easy to do.
Simply place your lower legs on a couch, cross your arms over your chest, and lift your upper body.
Design several short workout routines and try to do one at least every other day.
However, the best possible plan for every mid-ager is to do some exercise every day.
That way, you will live to grow old without actually seeming old, which is a pretty good deal. — McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Five steps to take now to prevent falls