In the first of this series on beginners exercises for over fifty we featured squats for the lower body, today we will show you a really easy way to strengthen the upper body doing wall push ups.
We begin with these two exercises because they both engage large muscle groups and strengthen areas of the body that are used in every day activities.
The push up works the chest, back and arms. When done correctly it also helps strengthen the core. While I’ll admit that the regular way of doing push ups is challenging and I still find it difficult to do more than 15 or 20 at a time (on a good day) I will show you an easy way to get similar benefits that almost anyone can do.
Stand 2 – 3 feet from the wall – Feet about shoulder width apart, knees straight but not locked.
Hands flat against the wall – Just a little wider than shoulder width, arms straight.
Now bend your arms - Bend until your nose is about 1″ from the wall.
Push Back - Return to starting position.
That’s all there is to it. The level of difficulty and resistance increases the further you place your feet from the wall. Find a position that allows you to complete 12 – 15 repetitions. Perform these 10 – 15 reps 2 to 3 times about twice a week and you should see improved upper body strength within 6 weeks.
One of the great things about this exercise is that it’s so portable. You can do it at work on your break, while out walking around the park, while away from home on a trip or vacation, just about any where!
Remember muscles need increased resistance as they get stronger to maintain the same level of fitness so increase your distance away from the wall as your strength improves. Eventually you can move from the wall to using a chair or bench for support thus lowering you body closer to the floor and creating even more body weight resistance – but that’s all for later. Start out with these beginner wall push ups and trust me you’ll get there!
If you’re over 50 and haven’t worked out in a while mastering the squat may be somewhat of a challenge but it’s first on the list for a very good reason.
Builds and strengthens the foundation – Squats target the largest muscle group of the body, the quads or thighs and glutes or butt. These muscles are called into use every day in normal activities that require lifting, pulling or pushing. They’re also important for maintaining balance. Strengthening these groups of muscles may help prevent falls and as an added bonus can help prevent osteporosis or porous bones that sometimes occurs when the bones grow weak with aging and become more susceptible to fractures and breaks.
Okay, so what’s the proper way to perform a squat?
At first for balance place a chair in front of you facing forward and place your hands on the back of the chair. You can also place a chair directly behind to prevent a fall when you go down and to keep the beginner from going down too far
You should be standing with feet about shoulder width apart
Your chest and stomach should be straight up and down with a slight curve in your back
Bend your knees, at first go only as far as you comfortably can, the goal is to eventually be able to go down until your thighs are a little past parallel to the floor.
Only using your legs, push back to the starting position. Use your grip on the chair only for balance unless you absolutely need to pull yourself up.
When you get better at it you will no longer need the chair. At this point you may even add some weight for more resistance.
For weight, use two milk jugs, dumbbells or whatever holding them at your sides as you squat.
This is the introduction to a series of post that we will be doing on exercises for over 50. The first of the series will focus on beginner work out routines and working our way up to a more strenuous work out plan.
These exercises are designed for those who have either never worked out or haven’t in a some time. Therefore the first order of business was to decide what kind of exercises would be best suited to a beginner over 50. We decided they had to meet at least at least 4 requirements.
Ease of Motion – No fancy dance steps or twists and gyrations. I personally have felt my body “pop” just getting out of the car, and I’ve been working out for years! We’ll leave the Tae Bo and Hip-Hop for further down the road (maybe)
Can be done at Home – I think that a lot of people and us over 50 especially are somewhat intimidated by the thought of going to a gym and being around a lot of people who are already toned and trim. A few weeks doing things alone in the privacy and comfort of home can build our level of confidence so that we wont feel like a complete newbie the first time in the gym.
Full Body Work Out – This one is important whether you’re a beginner or have been working out for years. It’s best to engage as many of the “large” muscle groups as possible with each exercise. For those of us over 50 this is especially true as it helps fight sarcopenia and battles the aging process. Doing 100 bicep curls will make you great at doing bicep curls and make your arm muscle bigger but it won’t do much for the rest of your body.
No Equipment Necessary - Okay maybe we fudged a little on this one but any equipment needed will be everday items found around the house. Or maybe even a part of the house (one exercise uses a wall for support). These work outs are designed to use body weight for resistance. The weight of your body along with a chair, the floor or a wall for support will be all you need. Of course as you get stronger you may want to add small hand weights (or milk jugs), resistance bands, or kettle balls for added resistance but they’re not needed to get started.
Although there are many exercises that could fit these basic requirements we decided on three really simple ones. Squats, wall push ups and lunges can all be done at home, are easy to learn and need no equipment other than a chair or wall. We added resistance bands to the list because their versatility, ease of use and low cost make them the best add-on to any home fitness routine.
If you’re over 50 and either new to the idea of working out or haven’t been in a gym in years I have the perfect solution to getting you started on the path to getting in shape and fighting the inevitable muscle and coordination loss of sarcopenia that is just a natural art of aging.
Resistance bands or exercise bands as some people call them are great for resistance training at almost any level but especially for the beginner. Just some of the benefits are:
No gym required – You can get a workout just as effective as a gym workout without leaving home. This will certainly save you time and provides you with privacy and the luxury of scheduling your fitness routine around your lifestyle.
Low Cost – Many resistance bands can be purchased for less than $20. I recommend buying a few different ones, they come in different thicknesses to give you different levels of resistance. You could even throw in an instructional DVD and still come in under $50 – $60. I know some gyms that charge that or more a month.
Portable - Resistance bands can be folded up and put in a small hand bag, carry all, or even fit in a glove compartment. Just right for maintaining your routine while traveling.
Versatility - These simple little things can perform HUNDREDS of different exercises that when done correctly and with proper form provide you with the same resistance as weights. Your muscles don’t know the difference between weights and bands, it’s all in the amount of tension and positioning of the bands. That’s why I suggest getting a pack of varying thicknesses.
For most of us over 50 but not yet over 65 the answer is no. But if you are one of the 9,000 people over fifty that will turn 65 every day for the next 20 years then the answer could be yes!
Medicare Advantage Silver Sneakers Plan
SilverSneakers is a program for seniors provided as a free benefit by many Medicare Advantage programs in the country. It’s federally funded and offered to Medicare Advantage programs. To find out if there is a participating gym in your area click on Silver Sneakers Locator.
Does my plan offer Silver Sneakers?
More than forty major plans across the country offer the SilverSneakers Fitness Program as a part of their Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement and group retiree plans. The programs are serviced by a network of participating fitness locations such as YMCAs, Curves®,gyms, wellness centers and other facilities.
It’s really easy to feel “burnout” this time of year. The weather is dismal, the days are shorter, the post-holiday bills are starting to come in, sometimes it feels as if I’m just going through the motions. Just putting one foot in front of the other to make it through the day. Here is what works to bring back my “mojo”.
Purge my “things to do”. This gives me a fresh start. No hanging on to things that I REALLY don’t NEED to do. This includes getting rid of all the magazines that I promised myself that I’d get around to reading, forgetting about all the calls that I’ve been promising myself to make to friends, throwing out all the “stuff” that I bought at garage sales last year that I was going to refurbish or “do something” with. This always gives me an instant lift. It’s like I give myself a pass for stuff that I didn’t accomplish last year and allow myself to be OK with it.
Volunteer. I recognize that a lot of what I’m feeling when I ‘m blue is simply being too self-centered. A case of the “why isn’t my life different than it is.” Spending time helping others gets me out of myself. Whenever I’m helping someone else I never think of me unless it’s “But for the grace of God, there go I”. This gives me a great sense of gratitude and I always go back to my own little humble abode thankful for what I DO have.
Schedule some ME time. I know this may seem counter to #2 but sometimes a little “me” time is needed too. Does this happen to you? You’ve promised to do this, that and the other. Every time some one asks you to do something you say yes. This can leave you feeling burdened and burned-out. Schedule time for yourself at the beginning of the week and stick to it. If someone else’s designs for your life take priority over your own you can’t be happy. I know that sometimes things come up and we have to adjust but it’s important to learn how to say NO, I’m busy that day.
Sometimes it’s difficult to notice the changes that are happening to our bodies and spirits when we begin a fitness routine. Being over 50 has taught me patience and I know that there is no overnight miracle success to getting and staying in shape but still I’d like to have some way of reassuring myself that the time and effort, (not to mention the sweat and tears) is paying off and that I am step by step “getting there.”
When we first embark on a fitness journey it isn’t long before our friends and family can see the changes in us, often times even before we can see it ourselves. This can keep us motivated to continue on. I mean who doesn’t like a little praise every now and then? But after a while the pats on the back stop coming and that’s when we have to find other ways to stay motivated.
I’ve found that keeping a fitness journal helps me to stay on point. When I’m wondering if I’m really making any progress I can always look back a month or so and see that I’ve increased the time that I can stay on the bike or elliptical machine without tiring or that I have added a few more pounds or reps to the weight that I can lift. True these gains may not be as easy to see to others but I know just how much effort I’ve put into being fit and that is always enough to lift my spirits and make me look forward to the next workout.
Over the years I’ve lived in and traveled to many different places and whenever I found myself in any one place for any longer than I week I usually felt the need to locate a gym or fitness center. Luckily most gyms offer either a short term rate or even a free trial membership. This has given me the opportunity to go inside a lot of different facilities and I’d like to share with you what in my opinion makes some better than the rest.
Although the other items in this article are in no particular order this first item, Cleanliness, is at the very top of the list. Most places will look clean at first glance but make sure that the locker rooms are cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. Are there dirty towels lying around? Does it pass the sniff test? Are the mirror’s clean? The waste bins over-flowing.
In the workout areas does the facility provide sani-wipes to wipe down the equipment after each use? This is extremely important as most germs are transfered by hand contact. Oh and don’t forget to bring your shower shoes if you’ll be showering at the gym after your workout.
Equipment Condition and Availabilty
Is the equipment maintained and in good condition. Serious injury could occur by using faulty gym machines. Are there enough machines, barbells, and floor space for you to work out? I hate it when I have to wait for 20 or 30 minutes to get on an exercise bike or there is a line waiting to use a particular machine. I like to get in the gym, do my thing and get out. I know that for some it’s a good place to mingle and socialize and I have nothing against that but for me it’s all about the workout and getting fit. Which brings me to my next item.
Just because I don’t socialize at the gym doesn’t mean that I like a Spartan, no-nonsense type atmosphere. A lot of gyms have T.V.’s in them now and I’ve often been able to catch up on the news or watch a ball game while riding the bike or elliptical machine. I’ve also met some really nice people and even made a few good friends at me local gym. I think the atmosphere and tone is set by the management and staff which is important.
I’ve seen good gyms that could be a lot better if they had staff that understood the importance of good service. Instead of being out on the gym floor and available they hover around the main desk and seem to be more involved with each other than the gym patrons. The best staff is well trained in the latest in physical fitness and eager to help you reach your goals. I like the ones that are like good waitresses at a diner. Not always asking how they can help but seem to have a sixth sense about knowing when they’re needed.
Okay, I admit that now that I’m over 50 I think of these things but then again this blog IS about fitness over 50 and I have actually seen the availability of a heart defibrillator possibly save the life of one man at a gym. Wouldn’t have thought about it before that incident but now it’s one of the tings that I look for.
So what do you think is a must have for the right gym?
It’s well known that too much salt isn’t good for you but how much salt is too much? The Government guidelines are about 2300 mg for younger adults and 1500 mg for those of us over 50. That’s only about 2/3 of a teaspoon. Removing the salt shaker is a good start to reducing your salt intake but did you know that up to 80% of your salt intake may come from processed foods?
How does salt affect aging?
High sodium consumption affects all age groups but due to other health risk that accompany the aging process the dangers of salt are more pronounced in people over fifty and others with salt sensitivities. Sodium can elevate the blood pressure, contribute to bone brittleness and raises the risk of stroke, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease and cataracts.
How to Cut back on Salt
As I mentioned up to 80% of your salt intake is from processed foods. Most Americans eat 3,500mg to 4,500mg a day, thats 2 to 3 times the recommended consumption for people over 50.
Start your reduction at the super market. Read the labels, the sodium content is required by law to be posted on the packaging. Compare brands. I know this can be somewhat time consuming at first but after a while you’ll know what brands contain the lowest sodium level. Canned veggies and tuna are packed in a sodium rich solution as a preservative, rinse the veggies or tuna before heating or eating to remove some of the salt.
Eliminate or reduce eating processed foods like cold cuts, hot dogs, and processed cheese. These are VERY high in sodium content.
Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables that are naturally low in sodium.
Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush excess salt out of the body.
One study found that lowering the amount of salt 5 grams a day (about one teaspoon) was associated with a 23% lower stroke rate and up to 17% less total cardiovascular disease. They went on to say that cutting normal salt intake in half ”could avert some 1.25 million deaths from stroke and almost three million deaths from cardiovascular disease worldwide.”
Don’t Smoke – Number One for good reason. Causes cancer, hardens arteries, ages skin and leads to cardiovascular disease.
Resistance exercise. Sure aerobics are good for the heart and respiratory systems but resistance or weight training fights Sarcopenia, the sagging skin, stooped posture and loss of coordination that comes with aging.
Eat your veggies (and fruit too). Vegetables and fruits contain antioxidants that aid in preventing heart disease and cancer, lower blood pressure and slow aging. Berries, broccoli and tomatoes are the best sources for antioxidants.
Manage stress and anxiety. Learn to Let Go and Let God. If we’re honest with ourselves and take a look back at our lives we can see that a lot of the things that we worried so much about in the past either didn’t happen or seemed to work themselves out in the end. That’s one advantage of getting older. We have a history to reflect on and learn from.
Maintain and develop solid personal relationships. One of the key indicators of growing old unhappily is withdrawal and isolation. It’s insidious and can feed on itself. Left alone with our own thoughts the world can become a lonely, dark and scary place. Get out, have a few laughs, take a class. Enjoy life! If you’re over 50 like me you’ve earned it!