As we age, our muscles shorten and we start limiting our movements due to joint aches or low energy levels. Lack of muscle and joint use leads to atrophy. Atrophy occurs in the brain as well, which affects one’s stability and balance, increasing one’s tendency for falls.
Exercise helps improve movement and stability as it stretches the muscles, while increasing muscle flexibility and strength.
According to Lucy Lim, a physiotherapist and Manager of the Rehabilitation Medicine Department, Sunway Medical Centre, exercise is vital especially for senior citizens to reduce the risk of heart diseases and osteoporosis.
Depending on a person’s medical condition, she recommends that senior citizens exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day for at least twice a week to enhance energy levels, maintain mobility and independence.
Weight bearing exercises helps to sustain healthy bones. In physiotherapy, weight bearing exercises are part of the therapy for patients recovering from stroke, Parkinson, osteoporosis and arthritis.
These exercises also help to address disequilibrium or vestibular problem, which is characterised by dizziness, which leads to falls. “About 5-10% of elderly people have vestibular problems due to the degeneration of the anatomy,” says Lim.
Vestibular Rehabilitation (VR), which consists of balance exercises and glaze stabilization, is a therapy that helps build a tolerance mechanism in the brain to compensate for the unequal balance between the two ears.
The aim is to strengthen the muscles and keep the body supple for a longer time, says Lim. Here are seven simple weight bearing exercises to strengthen bones and muscles at any age.
1. QUADRICEPS STRENGTHENING
Stand with feet slightly apart. Bend both knees to 45˚. Hold for 5 seconds and return to standing position. Note: Do not bend knees over your toes.
Benefits: Strengthen thigh muscles by enhancing flexibility and balance which allows you to walk better.
2. HIP RAISE
Stand with your feet slightly apart with hand on a chair for support. Lift your knees 90˚ and hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times on each leg.
Benefits: Strengthens the hip, increases flexibility and balance.
3. WIDE LEG SQUAT
Sit with arms crossed in front of your chest. Bend your knees at 90˚ and hold for five seconds. Slowly raise yourself to 45˚ and hold for another 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times and always maintain a straight back.
Benefits: Improves co-ordination, strengthens the thigh and hips muscles.
4. STANDING LEG CURL
Stand with feet apart and wrap weights of 1- 1 ½ kgs around the ankle. (Use bean bags as DIY weights). Lift one knee behind to 90˚ and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5-8 times for each leg.
Benefits: To strengthen the muscles around the knee joint.
5. KNEE EXTENSION
Sit on the chair with small weights around the ankle. Straighten the knee and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat for 6-8 times on both legs.
Benefit: Strengthens the thigh and knee muscles
6. SIDE HIP RAISE
Holding the back of the chair for support, lift one foot sideways and hold to the count of 5. Do 5-8 repetitions for each leg.
Benefits: Increases hip muscle, improves posture and prevents backache.
Stand with feet slightly apart. With elbows close to the body and dumbbells (use canned food or mineral water bottles as DIY dumbbells) in both hands, bend elbows completely. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat for 10 times.
Benefits: Strengthens arm muscles. This will help with daily activities and provide support for people with weak leg muscles.
- Consult your physician before carrying out any exercise routine
- Stop if you feel pain, uneasiness or fatigue
- Remember to breathe in and out normally during exercise
- See a physiotherapist if you need further advice