Fitness Trainers Recommend This Exercise for Its Aging Benefits
Losing muscle mass is one of the unfortunate realities of aging, and this process starts at age 30. But the good news is that there are ways to help prevent or mitigate these negative effects.
A woman with upper-limb loss performs squats (see below for the instructions).
Most fitness trainers recommend strength training as the number one exercise to improve our longevity and overall health, and this claim is supported by research. A 2015 study found that strength training can increase the life span of people in their 70s with mobility issues. This is because strength training has a plethora of benefits.
Benefits of strength training
Regular strength training improves bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It also helps with muscle maintenance and weight management, as it boosts metabolism. Strength training can improve joint mobility and protect your joints by improving your range of motion and strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints.
If you use a prosthetic limb, you may find that strength training improves your balance, which is crucial in preventing falls that may lead to injury.
Strength training exercises
Below are some strength training exercises you can do at home and without equipment. You can perform these moves every day. However, if you’re new to exercise since limb loss, it’s best to consult your physical therapist and physician first.
This exercise targets your core and hip, knee, and ankle joints. Performing squats regularly allows your body to do everyday activities as you age, such as picking something up off the ground and getting up from a chair.
Here's how to do squats correctly:
1. Position your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart with toes facing forward.
2. Press your feet firmly into the floor, drive your hips back, and lower your body as if sitting down, aiming to squat parallel to the ground.
3. Press your heels into the floor to push up and return to a standing position.
4. Do 12 to 15 reps.
This exercise focuses on working out your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves. It also enhances your balance and helps rectify muscle imbalances by strengthening each side of your body.
To begin, stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a big step forward with your sound side leg (or whichever side you prefer) into a split stance.
Keep your heel off the ground on your other leg as you lower your body until your knees form a 90-degree angle.
Then, plant your front foot and the ball of your back foot into the ground and straighten your back into a standing position.
Repeat this movement 10 to 12 times on each side.
This exercise focuses on several muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and those that support the spine. By doing hip bridges or glute bridges, you can stretch your hips and improve flexibility, enhancing your mobility and reducing your risk of lower back pain or injury.
To do this exercise, lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet firmly planted on the mat.
Place your arms flat on the floor next to your body, with your palms facing down.
As you inhale, press your heels into the mat and lift your hips towards the ceiling. At the top, squeeze your glutes.
Slowly lower your hips back down to the floor as you exhale.
Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
This exercise targets several muscle groups, including the shoulders, triceps, chest, and core. By performing push-ups, you can increase your upper body strength and improve your overall endurance and stability. This can help you maintain your balance and prevent falls as you get older.
To perform a push-up, begin in a high plank position with your toes on the ground and your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight and your body in a straight line.
Slowly lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows while keeping your core tight and your hips level.
Push yourself back up through your palms while exhaling and contracting your chest muscles. Return to the starting position.
Perform three to ten repetitions to complete the exercise.
Modified bent push-up
If the standard push-up is too challenging, you can try modified bent push-ups instead.
Start by holding your arms straight and placing your knees on the floor, which will cause your body to be on an incline.
After this, bend your elbows to lower your body towards the floor, then push your upper body back up to the starting position.
Aim for three to ten reps.
You can perform this exercise without your prosthetic leg if you have unilateral below- or above-knee limb loss.
Push Ups Without Prosthesis - Below-Knee Limb Loss
Push Ups Without Prosthesis - Above-Knee Limb Loss
If you have limb loss in one of your arms, you can perform this without your prosthetic arm. Instead, improvise with a medicine ball.
This particular exercise focuses on strengthening your core. Planks effectively enhance your overall functional strength, improve balance, and tone your shoulders and glutes.
Assume a plank position with your forearms and toes on the floor. Ensure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your forearms are facing forward.
Engage your core muscles by pulling them towards your spine, keeping your torso and hips level.
Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
If you have below-knee limb loss, you can do this exercise without your prosthetic limb by placing your knees on the mat instead of your toes.