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Strengthen your body with specific exercises

Truth be told, there is not a single person at any stage of life who is 100% pain free all of the time. Growing pains refer to both physical and emotional pain. While emotional pain become experiences to grow into mentally stronger people, physical pain makes the body weaker. That is why it is important to address all physical pain at the initial onset rather than wait till it is unbearable.

Recently after a trip of lugging baggage, hopping planes every other week, for the first time I experienced a muscle pull in my upper arm. Well that’s what I thought up until the pain got so bad, that I could not raise my arm, reach out for anything or lift even a glass of water. To top it all, it was my left arm and guess what, I am left-handed. It is at this point I seek medical help, do an ultrasound, and visit a physiotherapist. Turns out it is not a frozen shoulder or a muscle pull but an old unattended injury with built up calcification that is now inflamed. After several sessions of heat and other treatments, the healing is 80% and the next step is to strengthen the muscle with daily exercises.

Here’s the point of relating this incident —

  • We tend to brush away minor pain – DON’T
  • Don’t assume the pain is what you think it is – INVESTIGATE
  • Rest an injury till it heals completely- DON’T BE IMPATIENT

It is well known that as we grow older, our muscle strength decreases and the non-stop mantra is —‘do weight training and eat protein with every meal.’ It is important to know that we need to exercise every muscle group, the large and the small muscles too, focusing on your arms, legs and back muscle groups.

You may think you are fit because you do your daily forty-five minute walk and your blood work is in the green. That’s not all the parameters needed for strong muscles. You need strength training.

Take this test —

  1. Observe whether-

– You have slowed down your pace of walking.

– You experience muscle cramps.

– You have pain in lower extremities.

– You have difficulty getting up from the floor or chair without using your arms.

This is because your hips are losing strength, your gluteal muscles, which include the gluteus maximus, the medius and the minimus are the primary hip stabilizers, when these are weakened you experience all of the above. So make sure you do not keep sitting on your butt and work out the muscles regularly.

2- Observe whether you are beginning to lose your balance.

– When reaching out for something you tip off your seat or grab some support.

This is a sign of a weak core, and weak ankles.

3- Observe if you feel pain in your knees when getting up from a sitting position to a standing position.

– Kneeling down causes pain.

– Climbing stairs cause pain.

This is a sign that your quads and hamstring muscles are weak, as it is these two muscle groups that support the knees.

  • Observe if you have begun hunching.

– Does your head tend to go forward and your chin rest towards your chest?

All these are common ageing issues and cause neck pain, which is basically your cervical spine being compromised, thus altering your posture.

  • Wrist strength, it is the wrist that takes stress off the shoulder, and the elbow when you raise your arms to reach out for something over your head. Strong wrists begin with strong finger joints. Don’t let arthritis set in early, keep exercising your fingers and wrists.

Here are some simple exercises by fitness professional Larry Sarjeant, 

They can be done on your bed to keep the small muscle groups active and agile-

5 reps each-

Hips: Bed side lying lateral leg abduction-

Lie on the bed on your side.

Place your arm under your head and neck to support your spine.

Place your legs out straight and lift the top leg and then return it back to the center.

Bed lying bridge-

Place your feet close to your bottom.

Lift your hips all the way up without going onto your neck.

Keep your weight on your shoulders.

Then come back down to the bed.

Knees-

Hamstring bed lying leg kicks

Lie prone on your stomach with your elbows underneath your body so that you are slightly arched upward.

Bring one leg all the way to your buttocks and then bring it back down to straight.

Quads-

Seated leg extensions

Sit on a chair or bed with the back of your knees touching the mattress or chair seat. (Your legs should be touching what you are sitting on.) Extend your leg upward and contract your quadricep.

Hold for three seconds and return to the starting position.

Alternate legs.

Chair sits

Use a chair.

Depending on how much ability you have to bend your knees, you may want some books on the chair.

Start by moving your hips backward and then sit down on the chair and stand back up.

Ankles and calves-

Standing toe raises (plantar flexion)

Stand flat on your feet and raise your heels up as high as you can.

Return to starting position.

Use a wall or something else to hold for balance.

Tibialis anterior (Dorsiflexion)

Hanging onto something like a chair for balance, lift your toes as high as you can, standing on your heels and then return to a flat stance.

Bed lying foot curls

Lie on the bed on your back.

Bring one leg to 90 degrees and support with hands behind the hamstring. (Your position should be like sitting in a chair but on your back.)

Move your foot in counterclockwise circles and then switch to clockwise. Repeat on the other side.

Neck-

Bed prone lying neck extensions

Lie prone, belly down, with your shoulders on the edge of the bed and your head hanging off the bed.

Lift your head back and lift your head back towards your shoulders.

Extend your chin on your neck, extend your neck on your thoracic spine, keeping your shoulders on the bed.

Neck flexors

Lie on the bed in a supine position, with belly up.

Tuck your chin to your chest and curl your neck up, not letting your shoulders off the bed. e

Wrists-

Soup can wrist extensions (palm down)

Place your elbow and forearm on your leg and keep them there throughout the whole exercise.

Hold a soup can or light dumbbell in your hand.

Extend your wrist upward without lifting your elbow or forearm off your leg.

Soup can wrist curls (palm up)

Place your elbow and forearm on your leg with your wrist slightly over your knee and keep them there throughout the exercises.

Curl your wrist upward toward your face and then return to the starting position.

To Conclude –

  • As we age we lose muscle mass, hence it is crucial that older adults continue to exercise and include strength training. This helps maintain mobility and the ability to maintain your balance.
  • Fitness should be a lifelong endeavor and you need to exercise a lot more than just the basics.
  • Always start slow and build up momentum with small improvements over time to make a difference.
  • Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regime to make sure it’s safe for you.
Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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