The Ultimate Exercise for Seniors…and Those Who Feel Like One

David Liira

Feeling old and stiff? Just do this!

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While it’s easy to blame daily stiffness on age, your lived experience alone won’t tell the whole story. For whatever reason, many individuals who struggle with body aches settle for suffering with them, either because they’re ‘getting up there in age’ or ‘it’s just how life is’. Well, this viewpoint is absolute baloney. Whether you’re 25 or 85, there are strategies you can implement today to get you feeling younger, spryer, and more functional with everyday tasks.

One of the most important lessons to learn in fitness is that age isn’t all that important if your mindset and exercise routine is on point. Sure, there is a natural degradation of joints and tissues, and your overall fitness capacity will drop over the years, but that’s no reason to fight back for what control you still have. Hint — exercise is medicine and it’s one of your best friends when it comes to navigating soreness, chronic pain, and old age.

It’s time to introduce a comprehensive movement program to get you moving more and fighting back body stiffness. You may just surprise yourself with how much you can control the destiny of your aging!

3 strategies to heal your body soreness.

First off, if you have any known injury histories or chronic conditions, please check in with your provider before adhering to the advice below. While integrating more movement will naturally benefit your life, it’s key to work with someone who knows what volume and modalities are right for you. Without further ado, let’s dive into the program!

1) Make sitting your enemy.

It’s simple, we were made to move. Unfortunately, in our modern world, sitting is commonplace. While small bouts are completely fine, sitting on your ass for hours on end will bring many complications. This includes but is not limited to back pain, hip discomfort, a decreased range of motion, and decreased endurance with physical tasks. It’s no mistake that the seniors who get off the couch are the ones who stay functional for longer.

There is significant evidence to prove that excessive sedentary behavior will also spike the risk of colon, lung, and uterine cancer. It can even reduce one’s mental health, concentration, and productivity. These economic and health effects cause the global cost of physical inactivity to be estimated at 68$ billion.

If you want to maintain your health & fitness as you age, one of the biggest factors is how often you move throughout your day. To get started, try following these 5 strategies!

  • Stand up every 30 minutes — even for 30 seconds. This is one of the most valuable pieces of health advice out there.
  • Set timers on your phone for sedentary leisure activities. If this doesn’t fly, consider being active in front of your screen! Who says you can’t do chair squats while watching TV?
  • Avoid technology use in awkward positions. If you’re going to use your phone, ensure you’re seated up with the elbow not supported. Endless scrolling in bed will only add to your soreness and pain.
  • Plan your social life around physical activity. If you find friends who can inspire you to move, you’ll be much more inclined to do more physical activity throughout your week.
  • View chores as an opportunity to move and feel better! Do your best to spread these tasks throughout the day to keep you active.

2) Mobility work before and after bed.

Typically, we feel most sore and creaky waking up from a night’s sleep, and after the day is through. To give your tissues an extra boost, try 5 minutes of mobility before and after bed. Even though this time commitment is minimal, it has the power to alter the trajectory of your musculoskeletal health. Yes, this is a big claim…but it’s also true. Daily mobility work is one of the most overlooked health strategies, and if done correctly, can change the game for all ages and populations.

To get you started, here are 3 simple movements that will be accessible to nearly all populations. As you go through them, ensure that you take your time, access deep breaths, and only move within your pain-free range of motion.

Lumbar Rocks

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Image from Physiotec

Cues: 10–15 reps / side. Start by lying on your back with the knees bent to approximately 90 degrees. Next, raise your hands behind your head and slowly rock your knees from side to side. Begin with a smaller range of motion, gradually increase the length of each rep as you warm up. This is a great active way to get movement through the low back and pelvis.

Cat Cows

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Image from Physiotec

Cues: 10–15 reps. On inhale, elevate mid-spine while lowering the neck. On exhale, depress mid-spine and raise the neck. Strive for as much pelvic and shoulder blade movement as possible! If you want a great secondary option, try ‘thread the needles’ to add more spinal rotation into the mix.

Thoracic Extension Stretch

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Image from Physiotec

Cues: 20–30 second hold x 2, or 5 reps with 5–10 second hold each. Move to behind your chair and grab onto the backrest. Step away with your feet until you can hinge with your hips without bending at the elbows. Next, focus on lowering the chest towards the floor while keeping the arms straight. This will significantly improve your overhead mobility while giving you a moment to decompress the spine. Feel free to hold this position or do a rep-based approach where you hinge and hold for 5–10 seconds before resetting and doing it again.

This is one of the most powerful mobility exercises out there because it challenges the spine, overhead mobility, shoulders, hamstrings, and more. If you need a quick reset after a few hours of work, or you’re just feeling sore and stiff, this movement can help tremendously! Please note, this exercise can also be completed by using a wall.

3) Walk, hiking, and other activities that get your heart pumping.

Walking is a simple act that can make a huge difference for your musculoskeletal and mental health. If you’re really struggling, try 5–10 minute bouts and gradually work your way up. The more frequent the better so spread out a few ‘workouts’ per day rather than trying to walk 3 or 4 miles at a time. For those who have severe chronic pain, even getting across the room will likely be worthwhile. Here are just a few pros to walking:

  • mobilizing the low back and lower body
  • increasing heart rate and blood flow
  • supporting your independence
  • decreasing anxiety and worry
  • getting outdoors (so, so valuable for all facets of health)

Whether you can walk 2 miles or just a few steps, commit to continuous movement! This simple act will remind you that there’s always something you can be doing to fight back on your pain and work towards recovery.

A huge factor around increased sedentary behavior and stiffness is osteoporosis. To delay the demineralizing of your bones, the maintenance of weight-bearing activities is absolutely key. This is why older folks should keep on walking, hiking, or even running! While modifications to volume or intensity may be in order, it’s completely possible to keep on moving if you doing it wisely.

Make time for physical activity when you’re young, so you don’t have to waste it being immobile later on.

In closing,

While there are certain elements of aging we can’t avoid, there are still plenty of things we can do to prevent stiffness in the later years. If you’re serious about maintaining activity well into your 70s and 80s, take this program very seriously. While these habits are incredibly simple, consistently applying them to your daily life can change the game.

You’re only as old as you think you are! Use exercise as medicine and enjoy reaping all the benefits it has to offer. You got this.

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Kinesiologist & Blogger. 15k+ followers. Dedicated to writing relevant, up-to-date pieces on health and the human condition. My job (and joy) is to save you time and money by delivering the tools you need to take control of your own wellbeing. https://www.davidliira.com/

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