When we’re kids we’re naturally limber (i.e., flexible) and most children (especially girls) spend a good deal of their childhood jumping, climbing, twisting, back-bending, performing splits or at the very least sitting for long periods of time on their butts with their legs crossed or bent underneath them.
Then through the process of aging and studying more leading way to working at a desk more, we lose that limberness until we are old people who can’t get themselves off the ground. Most adults can’t touch their toes any more, can you?
As a personal trainer, one of my goals is to help all my clients reclaim their physical ability to do the things they want to do whether it’s hiking in the mountains, or simply being able to play with the grandchildren on the ground (and then get back up again). Not all clients are seeking to achieve the physique of a Greek God, some simply want to be able to have more stamina, strength, and flexibility.
A few years back my Mother took a fall and lost her confidence about traveling to Europe (one of her joys in life) because she felt that only my Dad could lift her up if she fell. I refused to have her stop partaking in her passion of travel and urged her to work with a trainer (we live in different States) just to the point where she could get herself up off the floor without help.
After a lot of persistent nagging on my part, she agreed and I found her a pilates instructor only five minutes away. They worked together twice a week for about six weeks performing exercises to improve my Mother’s balance, strength, and flexibility just enough that she could get herself up off the ground without assistance. The following year we celebrated her 80th birthday in Yosemite and she hiked an slight incline mile with me, barely stopping. Since then she has maintained this fitness level by performing the exercises daily and continues to enjoy travel and hasn’t fallen since.
Clearly when dealing with seniors or very out of shape teens/adults, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re simply trying to build up the body to the point that satisfies the client’s life goals. We don’t all need to be skinny or “ripped” but we do need to be able to handle whatever physical abilities are required to achieve our goals and passions. (I’ve seen overly-fat people hiking with less difficulty than some younger and/or thinner hikers, so it’s not always about your shape on the outside, it’s about your shape on the inside.)
So I urge all of you to consider this and find a trainer, take a class, follow a DVD or YouTube video, and push your body just a little more than you’ve been. Figure out what you can’t do physically today that you want to be able to do in the near future and seek out exercises that will assist you in that physical improvement. Sometimes all it takes is gentle but regular stretching. Other times it may require a little more effort and some guidance/instruction in form from an expert or trainer. Either way it doesn’t take much time, money or effort to see improvement, you just have to have enough motivation.
At the very least, if you want to be able to do the things physically that you can do today when you’re 80 or 90, you should start now! With the warmer “outdoor” months upon us, this is a perfect time to get outside and enjoy being physical, to whatever extent that entails. If you would like a personalized exercise or stretching routine, you can order a customized plan with detailed instructions on form from me.
Most fitness websites, articles, and posts are focused on the 25-59 age demographic, as clearly this is the group that cares (or worries) the most about their bodies. But I think we need to pay a little more attention to the “befores” and “afters” if we are to truly reduce the rampant obesity that plagues America for our future generations
First off we’ve got to teach the current (and future) generation of kids to move more, eat better, and specifically make fitness an equal priority to school work and time spent just being a kid. Get them off their electronics and using their muscles, training their cardiovascular systems, and keeping circulation and metabolisms running on high.
Next however, we need to tend to our current crop of seniors (60-85+). For most people in this age rage, fitness was probably not a priority during their youth, and therefore the taste for it, as well as the ability to embrace it, is quite low. However, if we modify our approach to fitness for seniors we can still give them improvements to their deteriorating health and bodies while not trying to turn them into fitness addicts – which they’re never going to be. If we, the 25-59-ers make it our priority to get our parents/grandparents moving and staying active, we will show all generations that physical age can have fewer boundaries than previously set. (Not to mention that keeping the body active stimulates the brain and keeps it active too!)
While many fitness organizations or programs do focus on kids or seniors, there still isn’t enough enticing options to keep those that are young and easily distracted, or old and easily deterred from continuing on fitness as a priority. Sadly schools throughout the U.S. have dropped standard P.E. programs due to budget cutbacks, and senior centers are fewer and less populated, especially outside of major cities.
So what I suggest is that each family design a weekly program or routine for everyone in the family, from 2 to 80. Include as many generations together as possible. Make fitness diverse, fun, satisfying, and easy to do and everyone will keep coming back for more. For kids, make it a game; or a group challenge; or create personal best goal chart.
For the grandfolk, take it slow, but always add a little more to each day/week/month. Include incentives that work for them like a daily/weekly walk to update them on family affairs or discuss current affairs. Take them on a picnic or to the movies while parking a little further away than normal, or conduct a chair workout, etc. If they simply can’t be made more mobile, stimulate their brains with jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or get them telling stories of their youth that you can document for prosperity and family history.
As our year comes to a close, I charge all of you to think of ways to get your kids and/or your elderly parents more active, document their growth, and share it here. If it takes a village, let this “cosmic” village be the test ground to show that our next generations will be leaner, more active, and live longer than the previous ones.