Working out over 60: Everything you need to know about maintaining a safe fitness routine
The benefits of exercise are limitless—and so is the age bracket for maintaining a fitness routine. In fact, the older you grow, the more your body needs it—to help with better functioning of the organs, a healthier heart, stronger muscles and immunity. “Exercise keeps senior people fit, improves circulation to all vital organs, keeps their blood pressure and blood sugar in check, joints healthy and prevents worsening of arthritis. It will also ease stress, keeping them mentally fit too,” says Dr. Mahesh Mylarappa, Consultant & Head of Emergency, Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal, Medical Partners to Columbia Pacific Communities. But how do you know what’s best for you and ideal once you hit 60? According to Dr Mylarappa, the ideal, regularised routine should consist of comfortable stretches, breathing exercises and then walking for a period of 20 minutes. Yoga, under guidance, and workout sessions focusing on various body parts is a good idea too. Here, we got three fitness experts to devise a fitness routine for the elderly from their field of expertise. But what’s most important? Listening to your body, and knowing when to call in the pros.
By Dipna Daryanani, contemporary dance artist and early childhood educator
Dance helps with not just the balance of the body, but the mind, the heart and the emotions, “It requires engaging the brain and body with propositions of hand-leg coordination, memory, spatial awareness, building balance, keeping up with the rhythm and if it’s a group then keeping up with the group,” says Daryanani. Aside from being meditative and therapeutic, it’s also great for bone health, cardiovascular health, and keeping the brain sharp. “The joy of dance is possibly one of the best gifts to the human body and spirit.”
When picking an exercise, it’s important to focus on what your body needs and is capable of. “Not everyone’s fitness levels are the same,” she says. For the nimble, she recommends finding a good teacher who understands their body and its restrictions if any, “and help them pursue whatever they please, whether it is Bollywood, hip hop, jazz, belly dancing, classical dancing, folk dance forms or contemporary dance. A good teacher will work with the student’s needs (no matter what the age) and create a lesson around it.” On the other hand, “Someone who is starting their journey at 60 needs to start slow, make sure to put yoga or practices like Feldenkrais method into your routine and then approach dance forms that interest you, slowly, one class at a time.”
By Sudipta Mondal, holistic fitness and lifestyle coach
“Build activity into your day simply by deciding to take the stairs versus the elevator, walking instead of taking out the car for a short distance,” says Mondal, and if you want to be consistent, she recommends exercising for 30-45 minutes, five times a week. “A thorough workout would include five or 10 minutes of light aerobic activity (jogging, cycling, swimming, hula hooping) to raise your heart rate and get you warmed up, 15 minutes of a full body conditioning workout, and 15 minutes of cooling down to allow your heart to return to its resting pace.”
Currently training her 62-year-old mother, Mondal realises that a workout regimen can only be beneficial for the elders when it’s enjoyable and easy, without a risk of injury or boredom. Her basic four drill routine can be done thrice a week:
Duck walk or the Indian deep squat walk
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and try to squat until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor, extending your arms out in front of you for balance.
Keep your chest up, your weight on your heels, and your eyes straight ahead.
Maintain this stance as you walk forward and backward for the prescribed time or reps. If it’s too hard to maintain a parallel squat—or you aren’t flexible enough to do that—go as low as you comfortably can and try to maintain that depth for the entire exercise.
Stand straight with your feet hip width apart.
Roll into a forward bend, starting from the chin till the lower back, one vertebrae at a time.
Bend your knees, touch the palms on the ground and curl up your spine, letting the head come up at the end.
One leg balance
Stand upright with your feet together.
Lift your leg off the ground one inch higher. Do not allow it to touch the ground.
Repeat on the other leg. Watch a clock to see how many seconds you are able to stand on one foot and record this number.
Catch and throw
“Throwing and catching a tennis ball really sounds funny and strange, right? Well, in my training experience, I have noticed that most people have had very positive memories associated with playing, be it children or old. The simple training exercise of catching and throwing a tennis ball can improve balance and help prevent falls in older adults,” says Mondal.
By Tanvi Mehra, yoga teacher
“Yoga is the most sustainable practise and can be practised by anyone at any age as it can be altered to each body, mind, temperament, injury and ailment,” says Mehra, “taking up yoga at or before 60 is beneficial to keep all the body systems functioning smoothly and especially to keep the nervous system relaxed. The most important part of the practise is to cultivate awareness as a tool that is potent to deal with any situation that life brings our way.”
Mehra believes that your yoga practice should consist of 70 per cent pranayama (breathing techniques) and 30 percent of asanas and light kriyas, “For older adults an ideal routine could consist of light pranayama work and prop based yoga using a chair, a yoga strap or theraband, and blocks.”
Start with a gentle joint mobility flow which consists of clockwise and anti-clockwise ankle rotations, knee rotations, hip rotations, shoulder rotations, elbow and wrist rotations and neck stretches.
Moving the spine into a light forward, backward and side bends as well as twists in standing, seated and supine postures is also a wonderful way to keep the body feeling active and energised.
Avoid moving fast without breath awareness, as well extreme ranges in any asanas, and intense pranayamas.