Active Ageing After 50 - 3 Exercises to Age Gracefully
What happens after 50? Are we living longer and healthier? Or are we doing the total opposite? Many research has showed that our musculoskeletal and other physical impairments are common problems affecting the elderly (1). It is inevitable that as we age, our musculoskeletal tissues show signs of increase bone fragility, loss of muscular strength, loss of cartilage resilience, ligament elasticity reduced and our fat redistribution causing a decrease in the ability of the tissues to carry out their normal functions (2). In addition, these deterioration may lead to some of the impairments below, just to name a few:
4. Gout issues
5. Fractures and falls
7. Basal metabolic rate decrease
(Not all of these symptoms affect all older adults equally, if at all.)
The importance of our health at any age, especially after 50, is a topic that cannot be emphasize or highlighted enough to all. As we age, we should all strive to age gracefully, in order to enjoy the years that we deserve, the years we work too hard all of our lives for.
Active ageing, as best described by World Health Organization, is a process of optimising opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age (3).
As cited by The American College of Sports Medicine, has showed that physical activity and exercise intervention has seen significant benefits in older adults. Physical activity in their daily routine helps reduces the risk of chronic diseases, preserves ability to perform daily living activities, increases life expectancy and improves overall physical health that combat the effects of ageing (4).
Thus, I have put together 3 easiest, most convenient and essential strength exercises that focuses on training the major muscles on older adults to aid overall stabilisation and fall-prevention efficacy.
** Disclaimer: All exercises recommended below are solely for ageing adults who are independent, with no injury or disabilities at hand. If there is any pain or injury, do consult a doctor before embarking on any of these exercises.
1. Pelvic Floor Strengthening
The objective of pelvic floor muscle exercise is to strengthen the pelvic floor supporting your bladder and rectum. Weak pelvic muscles might cause pelvic floor disorders or geriatric urinary incontinence (UI), which are conditions that are usually underestimated yet high in prevalence (5). Therefore, pelvic floor rehabilitation is an important strategy for treatment. By practicing pelvic floor muscle exercise regularly, it will enhance your urinary and bowel control.
Kegel exercise is suitable for both men and women. It focuses on tightening and holding the muscles that control urine flow.
Here's how to do it:
1. Sit in a comfortable position, close the eyes, and visualize the muscles that can stop urine flow.
2. Tighten these muscles as much as possible.
3. Hold this position for 3–5 seconds. It should feel as though the muscles are lifting up as a result of the squeezing.
4. Release the muscles and rest for several seconds.
5. Repeat up to 10 times.
People can vary this exercise by performing it while standing, lying down, or crouching on all fours.
2. Lower Body Strengthening
Often, we take it for granted to sit and stand as a younger adult. However, it can be a struggle to stand up from low chairs or soft couches for ageing adults. Not only so, climbing of stairs, walking upslope without an aid can also be of a struggle as we age. Therefore, it is vital to strengthen our lower body muscles in order to help gain or maintain the ability to move independently, improving functional balance and stability.
# Squats - Sit to Stand
Here's how to do it:
1. Sitting in a chair using the armrests of the chair shuffle your bottom forwards transferring your weight from one side to the other so your are sitting towards the edge of the seat.
2. Your weight should be evenly distributed, with your feet about the same width as your hips. Your heels should be positioned behind your knees.
3. Push down with your arms on the armrests and bring your head and shoulders forwards (think of getting your nose over your toes).
4. Keep your head up and look straight ahead, this will help with your balance and stability.
5. Push down through your legs to straighten using your hands to push also, and stand to an upright position.
6. Repeat up to 10 times.
3. Upper Body Strengthening
Upper body strength plays an important role in our overall functioning of the body. Strengthening our upper body equips us to move independently and in situations such as falling or even just carrying groceries.
# Wall Push ups
Push-ups are no doubt one of the best exercises to improve your whole upper body and especially strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest. You can try this exercise during a TV commercial break.
But you don’t have to get down on the floor and worry about being stuck there!
Here's how to do it:
1. Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. You may move closer to the wall to make the exercise easier.
2. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
3. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows diagonally to your sides while lowering your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep your body in a straight line and let your heels come off of the floor.
4. Pause for 1 second, then while breathing out slowly press through your hands to straighten your elbows and return to start until your arms are straight.
5. Repeat up to 10-15 times. Rest; then repeat up to 10-15 more times.
As much as it is our parents wish for us to always grow up happy and healthy, it is our wish as a child to see our parents age gracefully, happily and healthily. May we all, among our craziest schedule, never forget to take care what's most important, our health.
All the love,
Ashley Isabel Tay
1. Prevalence, expenditures, and complications of multiple chronic conditions in the elderly. Wolff JL, Starfield B, Anderson G Arch Intern Med. 2002 Nov 11; 162(20):2269-76.
2. Morphology, mechanisms and pathology of musculoskeletal ageing. Freemont AJ, Hoyland JA J Pathol. 2007 Jan; 211(2):252-9.
3. World Health Organization, Active Ageing: A Policy Framework, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland, 2002
4. Chodzko-Zajko, Wojtek J., et al. "Exercise and physical activity for older adults." Medicine & science in sports & exercise 41.7 (2009): 1510-1530.
5. Rehabilitation Medicine for Elderly Patients, Publisher: Springer, Cham, Editors: Masiero S., Carraro U., pp.489-494