Grandparents and Grandchildren Together: Grandparent Fitness

//Grandparents and Grandchildren Together: Grandparent Fitness

Grandparents and Grandchildren Together: Grandparent Fitness

K at playgroundGrandparent fitness is increasingly important to help fight off heart and alzheimer’s disease in addition to following a healthy diet.  If you are concerned about your health or the health of your parents or grandparents, why not join them in exercising. This may give you and them an incentive to get up, get out, and get moving and to continue with a positive fitness routine. With each season, find ways that you can adjust the exercises to keep it interesting with variety.

My stepmother, who is an active, independent 90 year old, resides in an adult community. She recently had minor surgery, so I stayed with her for two days after she was relased from the hospital. While I was there, my stepmother said she wanted to watch a new fitness program that was on the community’s cable station. The focus of the fitness program is to improve balance for the senior residents by offering lower body exercises. As I watched, I found myself doing the exercises along with the trainer.  Then I thought, why wait until I have difficulty moving around – why not start now?  And so, as soon as I found the time, I did some research on this area of balance fitness training.

The National Institute on Aging recommends balance exercises because they build leg muscles and help prevent falls. Each year, U.S. hospitals have 300,000 admissions for broken hips, and falling is often the cause of those fractures. Balance exercises coupled with calcium supplements for bone density can help us stay independent by helping to avoid disabilities that may result from falling.  An added benefit that I like is that it will help me keep up with the granchildren! We were with the grandkids twice last week at a playground and I had to climb the castle to keep the 2 Em climbing castleyear old safe and happy! It made me realize just how out of shape I really am!  So, for those of us who need to start out slowly, read on…

NIH adivses the following for all seniors who wish to participate in balance exercises:

Safety tips:

  • Hold onto a table or chair for balance with only one hand. As you progress, try holding on with only one fingertip.
  • Next, try the following exercises without holding on at all. Ask someone to watch you the first few times in case you lose your balance.
  • If you are very steady on your feet, move on to doing the exercises using no hands, with your eyes closed. Have someone stand close by if you are unsteady.

Side Leg Raises strengthen muscles at sides of hips and thighs. Strengthening these muscles is important for good balance. (Pretend you are in dance class together.)Side leg raise

  1. Stand straight, directly behind table or chair, feet slightly apart.
  2. Hold table or chair for balance.
  3. Slowly lift one leg to side, 6 to 12 inches out to the side. Keep your back and both legs straight. Don’t point your toes downward — keep them facing forward. Hold position.
  4. Slowly lower leg. Repeat with other leg.
  5. Keep back and knees straight throughout exercise.
  6. Alternate legs until you repeat exercise 8 to 15 times with each leg.
  7. Rest. Do another set of 8 to 15 alternating repetitions.

Hip Flexion strengthens thigh and hip muscles. Strengthening these muscles is important for good balance. Use ankle weights if you are ready. (Try to kick a soccerball with a knee kick after you practice this for a while.)Hip Flexion

  1. Stand straight; hold onto a table or chair for balance.
  2. Slowly bend one knee toward chest, without bending waist or hips.
  3. Hold position for 1 second.
  4. Slowly lower leg all the way down. Pause.
  5. Repeat with other leg.
  6. Alternate legs until you have done 8 to 15 repetitions with each leg.
  7. Rest; then do another set of 8 to 15 alternating repetitions.
  8. Add modifications as you progress.

Hip Extension strengthens buttock and lower-back muscles. Strengthening these muscles is important for good balance. Use ankle weights if you are ready. (Pretend you are modern dancers or figure ice skaters performing to make it fun.)Hip Extension

  1. Stand 12 to 18 inches from a table or chair, feet slightly apart.
  2. Bend forward at hips at about 45-degree angle; hold onto a table or chair for balance.
  3. Slowly lift one leg straight backwards without bending your knee, pointing your toes, or bending your upper body any farther forward.
  4. Hold position for 1 second.
  5. Slowly lower leg. Pause.
  6. Repeat with other leg.
  7. Alternate legs until you have done 8 to 15 repetitions with each leg.
  8. Rest; then do another set of 8 to 15 alternating repetitions.
  9. Add modifications as you progress.

Anytime-Anywhere exercises improve your balance. You can do them almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold onto if you become unsteady.Heel-to-toe

  • Walk heel-to-toe. Position your heel just in front of the toes of the opposite foot each time you take a step. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. (Pretend you are on a balance beam – kids love to do this by walking on the curb – try it!)

Here are other exercises you can do anytime, anywhere to improve your balance:

  • Stand on one foot (for example, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at the bus stop). Alternate feet.
  • Stand up and sit down without using your hands. (Include this in Musical Chairs or Simon Says.)

To check your progress:

  1. Time yourself as you stand on one foot, without support, for as long as possible.
  2. Stand near something sturdy to hold onto in case you lose your balance.
  3. Repeat the test while standing on the other foot.
  4. Test and record your scores each month.

How much, how often?

Don’t do more than your regularly scheduled strength exercise sessions to incorporate these balance modifications — remember, it can do more harm than good to do strength exercises too often. Simply do your strength exercises and incorporate these balance techniques as you progress.

Take the Quiz

1. Falling is the most frequent cause of hospital admissions for broken hips.

TRUE is the correct answer. Each year, U.S. hospitals have 300,000 admissions for broken hips, and falling is often the cause of those fractures.

2. Balance exercises can help reduce falls.

TRUE is the correct answer. Balance exercises can help you stay independent by helping you avoid the disability that may result from falls. Some balance exercises build up your leg muscles. Others improve your balance by requiring you to do simple activities like briefly standing on one leg.

3. Lower body exercises for strength also help balance.

TRUE is the correct answer. There is a lot of overlap between strength and balance exercises. Very often one exercise serves both purposes.

4. You can modify balance exercises to enhance your progress.

TRUE is the correct answer. Adding more challenge to your strength and balance exercises over time can enhance your progress. For example, with side leg raises you can begin by holding onto the table with both hands. As you progress, try holding on with one hand, then one fingertip, then no hands. Have someone stand close by if you are unsteady.

Let’s be the cool grandparent generation – the ones who get up, get out, and get moving along with the grandchildren – not following behind, huffing and puffing…asking them to slow down…for their dear, old grandparent.

 Resource: nihseniorhealth.gov

About the Author:

Grandmother of 5 great kids, retired special ed high school teacher, married since 1972 to Poppy...loves spoiling the grands, crocheting for whomever I can and charities, reading, crafts, outdoors, and blogging.

One Comment

  1. […] your level of fitness.  If you can’t exercise at that level, I’ve posted some balance/strength training exercises that can be done […]

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