For seniors, a low-impact exercise routine is very important for ongoing health and wellness for your body, muscles and overall mood. We’ve put together 5 great low-impact exercises that seniors over 65 years old can benefit from.

Yoga While Sitting On A Chair

A low-impact exercise like chair yoga improves muscle strength, mobility, balance, and flexibility, all of which are vital to seniors’ health. More conventional forms of yoga place more stress on joints, muscles, and bones than chair yoga does.

In addition, chair yoga has been shown to improve mental health in older adults. Chair yoga participants report better sleep, lower depression rates, and general well-being.

Great chair yoga exercises for seniors include:

  • Seated overhead stretch
  • Seated mountain pose
  • Seated twist

 

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics has become extremely popular among all ages, but especially among seniors. Those with arthritis and other forms of joint pain benefit from exercising in the water, since the buoyancy of the water reduces joint stress. Water also provides natural resistance, so weights are not required in strength training. Water aerobics exercises improve your strength, flexibility, and balance with minimal stress on your body.

Great water aerobics exercises for seniors include:

  • Leg lifts
  • Aqua jogging
  • Fluttering
  • Leg lifts
  • Water push-ups while standing
  • Weightless arm curls

 

Resistance Band Workout

A resistance band is a stretchy rubber strip that adds resistance to workouts while reducing body stress. Beginners can easily use resistance bands for workouts. Due to the relatively low up-front cost of materials, resistance band workouts are becoming increasingly popular among seniors. Furthermore, these exercises improve posture, mobility, and balance by strengthening your core.

Some popular workouts with resistance bands for seniors include:

  • Resistance band leg press
  • Resistance band triceps press
  • Resistance band lateral raise
  • Resistance band bicep curl
  • Resistance band pull apart

Pilates

Over a century ago, Pilates was developed as a low-impact exercise. As a result of pilates exercises, breathing, alignment, concentration, and core strength are emphasized. 

Most exercises involve mats, pilates balls, and other inflatable accessories that help build strength without the stress of higher-impact exercises. Among older adults, Pilates improves balance, strengthens the core, and increases flexibility.

A great Pilates studio in Coquitlam that I recommend is Vital Core Fitness Pilates.

 

Walking With Friends

Walking is one of the least stressful and most accessible forms of exercise. For some seniors, walking is a bigger challenge than others, so distance and step goals differ from person to person. Waling around 10,000 steps per day, or 90 minutes,  is great for your cardio-vascular health and body.

If you have difficulty walking or experience joint pain, reduce the steps and build your tolerance levels by setting goals. 

Ideas for walking exercises for seniors:

  • Find a neighbourhood trail
  • Call a family member or friend and plan a walk routine
  • Walk briskly
  • Listen to your favourite playlist or audiobook during your walk

To connect with a senior fitness training professional and build an exercise plan that works for you, contact us. We would love to work with you and help you achieve your fitness goals!

kids and gym

When it comes to kids and strength training, parents often want to know at what age their children should start lifting weights.

Urban legends of stunted growth, fractured growth plates and prematurely inflated physiques have made many parents understandably hesitant when it comes to involving prepubescent kids in resistance-training programs.

Tall tales and fear-mongering aside, the best answer to the “How old?” question may surprise you.

While there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest that there is a perfect chronological age to start weight training, “freshman year” (of high school) seems to be the widely accepted safe zone to begin training. This is not unfounded, as it represents a developmental milestone right in the middle of puberty. During this time, muscle, strength and performance gains from resistance training can be optimized.

Peer-reviewed research, however, has yet to report any negative health consequences from resistance training in children as young as 5 years, assuming proper movement and progression is introduced under experienced supervision. It appears an overwhelming majority of youth resistance-training injuries are primarily due to equipment accidents (e.g., weight falling on them and tripping in the weight room) or overzealous coaching that ignores proper program introduction and progression. Furthermore, concerns about abnormal body morphology (getting too big) prior to puberty are unfounded due to the minimal amount of natural anabolic hormone available in a child’s body.

In actuality, it appears that prepubescent children involved in a supervised, progressive resistance-training program experience improved fitness, favorable effects on bone density, improved movement ability and a reduced incidence of athletic injuries.

Before visions of 5-year-olds hoisting heavy barbells above their heads keep you up at night, it’s important to understand that weight training is another word for resistance training. Resistance to movement can come in many forms. Gravity, heavy backpacks, stretch bands, dumbbells and other implements can add resistance to a movement, making it more challenging. When an increased amount of muscular force is required to move (due to resistance), the body gets stronger. When this happens regularly and strategically it’s resistance training.

While most parents would be O.K. with their children carrying a 5-pound backpack as they run off to school, the idea of their children holding a 5-pound dumbbell while performing a squat may set off the “danger” alarm. In both scenarios, the external weight merely represents an increased amount of resistance to movement. Either type of resistance can function to make the muscles associated with a movement stronger.

To reap the benefits and minimize any risk with a resistance training program for kids, consider the following four questions to determine if a child is ready to benefit from resistance training:

1. Can the child perform movements such as squats, lunges, push-ups and pull-ups (horizontal and/or vertical) correctly with his or her own body weight? If not, adding additional load (e.g., speed, resistance) to a dysfunctional movement pattern makes little sense. If the child can perform these movements easily and repeatedly, adding small amounts of resistance keeps the body adapting and getting stronger.

It’s important to consider, however, that many children struggle with strength-to-weight ratio during body-weight exercises. Take the push-up, for example. A child with an elevated body weight in comparison to his or her level of strength may not be able to perform this exercise. Instead, doing a bench press movement with dumbbells allows for strength gains without using body weight. Some weight-training equipment functions to create sub-bodyweight resistance. For children who struggle with bodyweight exercises, these may be a better first choice.

2. Does the child have the intrinsic focus, attention span and desire to learn the proper way to resistance train? Supportive parents and great coaching combined with an uninterested/unfocused child are still a poor match. Safety during resistance training depends on a child’s ability to understand and respond to coaching.

3. Is the environment the child will be training in safe, supportive and positive? It’s important that a training environment for kids caters to a wide range of skills, sizes and general level of awareness. A crowded gym with people, weights, medicine balls or other implements in motion can prove extremely dangerous for young children. Additionally, adult-sized equipment may not be appropriate for small bodies. If the culture of a gym or training area is intimidating or otherwise negative to a child, it could turn him or her away from exercise for a long time.

4. Is the person in charge of the child’s program experienced and knowledgeable about the intricacies of youth physical and cognitive development?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, your child will receive little benefit from an organized weight-training program. Rather, his or her risk of injury will be significantly elevated.

In this case, focus on keeping your child active with things he or she enjoys. Kids don’t have to “train” to be fit and healthy. However, if and when they express an interest in lifting weights, a proper resistance-training program is a safe and effective way to improve fitness and performance.

AUTHOR

Brett Klika

acefitness.org

sleeping and fitness

In a new study, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden demonstrated that one night of sleep loss has a tissue-specific impact on the regulation of gene expression and metabolism in humans. This may explain how chronic sleep loss impairs metabolism and adversely affects body composition.

Epidemiological studies have shown that the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes is elevated in those who suffer from chronic sleep loss or who carry out shift work. Other studies have shown an association between disrupted sleep and adverse body composition, in which fat accumulation is increased at the same time as muscle mass is reduced—a combination that in and of itself has been associated with numerous negative health consequences. Previous studies have shown that metabolic functions that are regulated by skeletal muscle and adipose tissue are adversely affected by disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms. However, until now it has remained unknown whether sleep loss per se can cause molecular changes at the tissue level that can confer an increased risk of adverse weight gain.

 

In the new study, researchers studied 15 healthy normal-weight individuals who participated in two in-lab sessions in which activity and meal patterns were highly standardized. In randomized order, the participants slept a normal night of sleep (more than eight hours) during one session and were kept awake the entire night during the other session. The morning after each nighttime intervention, small tissue samples (biopsies) were taken from the participants’ subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle. These two tissues were selected to study because they often exhibit disrupted metabolism in conditions such as obesity and diabetes. At the same time in the morning, blood samples were also taken to enable a comparison across tissue compartments of a number of metabolites. These metabolites comprise sugar molecules, as well as different fatty and amino acids.

The tissue samples were used for multiple molecular analyses, which revealed that the sleep loss condition resulted in a tissue-specific change in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation, one form of mechanism that regulates gene expression. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that is involved in regulating how the genes of each cell in the body are turned on or off, and is impacted by both hereditary and environmental factors, such as physical exercise.

“Our research group was the first to demonstrate that acute sleep loss in and of itself results in epigenetic changes in the so-called ‘clock genes’ that within each tissue regulate its circadian rhythm,” explains lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes. “Our new findings indicate that sleep loss causes tissue-specific changes to the degree of DNA methylation in genes spread throughout the human genome. Our parallel analysis of both muscle and adipose tissue further enabled us to reveal that DNA methylation is not regulated similarly in these tissues in response to acute sleep loss.”

Dr. Cedernaes highlights the fact that they saw changes in DNA methylation only in adipose tissue, and specifically for genes that have also been shown to be altered at the DNA methylation level in metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. “Epigenetic modifications are thought to be able to confer a sort of metabolic “memory” that can regulate how metabolic programs operate over longer time periods,” says Dr. Cedernaes. “We therefore think that the changes we have observed in our new study can constitute another piece of the puzzle of how chronic disruption of sleep and circadian rhythms may impact the risk of developing, for example, obesity.”

Further analyses of gene and protein expression demonstrated that wakefulness affected skeletal muscle and adipose tissue differently. A possible explanation for why the two tissues respond in the observed manner could be that overnight wakefulness periods exert a tissue-specific effect on tissues’ circadian rhythm, resulting in misalignment between these rhythms. This is something that the researchers also found preliminary support for also in this study, as well as in an earlier study that was similar, but smaller.

“In the present study, we observed molecular signatures of increased inflammation across tissues in response to sleep loss. However, we also saw specific molecular signatures that indicate that the adipose tissue is attempting to increase its capacity to store fat following sleep loss, whereas we instead observed signs indicating concomitant breakdown of skeletal muscle proteins in the skeletal muscle, in what’s also known as catabolism,” explains Dr. Cedernaes. In other words, lack of sleep increased both the body’s ability to store fat and break down muscle.

“We also noted changes in skeletal muscle levels of proteins involved handling blood glucose, and this could help explain why the participants’ glucose sensitivity was impaired following sleep loss,” continues Dr. Cedernaes. “Taken together, these observations may provide at least partial mechanistic insight as to why chronic sleep loss and shift work can increase the risk of adverse weight gain as well as the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

The researchers have only studied the effect of one night of sleep loss, and therefore do not know how other forms of sleep disruption of circadian misalignment would have affected the participants’ tissue metabolism.

“It will be interesting to investigate to what extent one or more nights of recovery sleep can normalize the metabolic changes that we observe at the tissue level as a result of sleep loss,” says Dr. Cedernaes. “Diet and exercise are factors that can also alter DNA methylation, and these factors can thus possibly be used to counteract adverse metabolic effects of sleep loss.”

What Does the Research Mean to Health and Exercise Professionals?

When it comes to health and wellness, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Your clients could meet every physical activity and dietary guideline, but if they are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, it is unlikely that they will be able to sustain their health and wellness goals. As this study demonstrates, a lack of sleep can have a negative effect on body fat, skeletal muscle and blood glucose levels.

Encourage your clients to make sleep a priority by practicing good sleep hygiene and to aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night. Offer them tips such as going to bed at the same time each night and eliminating all screen usage an hour before bedtime. And remind them that rest and recovery are essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reaping all the intended benefits of their fitness program.

AUTHOR
American Council on Exercise
Contributor
acefitness.org