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Simple exercises to keep seniors moving

August 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most of us don't think about getting old, but those who are already there know the "golden years" aren't always so golden due to physical limitations that keep us from doing our everyday life. Here are some simple moves to keep us moving at any age. After a mild stroke Pasadena resident Lee Cirni's family convinced him to start exercising as they feared he was wheelchair bound.

"The worst thing for me because of my stroke was balance. And I didn't know it but I was kind of shuffling," Cirni said.

So Cirni got a trainer, who has been helping him keep his posture and has him doing balancing exercises. It has helped so much that at 89, he took up boxing, his favorite sport, proving it's never too late.

"Never too late, never too late - I would just say that it's really about range of motion," said Phil Dozois, owner of Breakthru Fitness in Pasadena.

Dozois says don't wait until it's an issue. Doing small exercises throughout daily life keeps the body mobile and agile. Start at the ground up to protect knees and maintain balance with ankle work.

Dozois said one helpful exercise is to face the wall holding on with both hands, with one foot forward, making sure to keep the heel on the ground. Bends knees forward and back to strengthen the ankle.

"Using a wall, you can just lean lightly against the wall, and you really want to drive that shin bone forward and back over the foot," Dozois said.

Dozois said since life is three-dimensional, another helpful exercise moves you side to side. Dozois keeps the feet in the same position but swings hips side to side. Adding a leg lift with rotations strengthens hips and works on balance.

He also offers variation by pretending the front foot can draw a half circle with the front foot - again for hip rotation and ankle stability.

Since we spend an inordinate amount of time sitting, Dozois recommends literally sitting then standing straight up, then adding the same move with arms up, then arms up and twisting. This would mimic a chair squat. Stand straight up with arms stretched out front. Continue to squat and raise arms overhead when standing up. Then finish with squats and arms overhead with a side twist standing up. Repeat on both sides.

Finally, functional lunges can keep legs, hips and glutes strong, while giving the back a stretch, especially the thoracic, or middle back, which is usually weak. Alternate lunges as if picking up something up off the ground and then standing back up. Adding upper body rotations when standing back up once again helps strengthen the whole body and is a movement we seem to have to do on a regular basis.

These moves mimic what we need to do throughout our entire life, so take time out of each day and do them for the best quality of life. They are simple and can take literally minutes to do.

"Movement is life," Dozois said.


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