If you want to be more physically fit, it’s never too late to start. Like many of my patients, you may already be doing aerobics and resistance training several times a week. Both of them help you strengthen your bones and decrease risk of fracture as you get older.
But, you may be ignoring a particular facet of fitness training that can do the most for you as you get older. I like to call them the “ABC’s” of over-50 fitness. But before you start wondering how you’ll ever find the time to add more exercise to your routine, I’m happy to tell you that it’s easy to incorporate simple ABC principles into your existing routine. And if in fact you’ve already been doing aerobics and resistance training for at least 2-3 months you have set the stage for you to move right into ABC training. Here’s how…
Focus on Your ABC’s for Improved Fitness
Doing aerobic and resistance exercise several times a week has improved the health of all the systems of your body including cardiovascular, respiratory, neurologic, etc. Frequent resistance training has improved your overall muscle density and strength as well as turned up your metabolism so you burn more calories at rest. It’s also improved your posture and stamina and has allowed you to carry all those bags of groceries, move furniture around your house, or do work around your home with greater stability and endurance.
But boosting your ABC fitness becomes just as important to you as you get older – in fact more so each year. I’m talking about Agility, Balance and Coordination – your ABC’s. The 3 of them determine how able are you to navigate in your environment to do simple ADL’s (activities of daily living) without falling or other risk of injury. Here’s how to get started…
First, as I mentioned above, you should have been doing regular muscle resistance exercise for about 2-3 months before you begin ABC training. Why? Because you need sufficient muscle mass, endurance and strength to support the additional ABC demands on your muscles. So, if you’re just starting to get fit in 2014, focus on aerobics and resistance training for 2-3 months, and then you can move right into simple ABC training.
Second, a few short “rules” of ABC training: a) Perform your exercises in a safe, well-lit area, without near-by furniture or things on the floor you can trip over as you strengthen your balance. b) Unlike aerobic or resistance exercise that driving-beat music stimulates, ABC training requires mental focus, much like yoga or tai chi. So, to start, turn off the loud music and/or television, and direct your focus to performing the exercises. c) Practice each exercise slowly and with purpose of movement as far as you comfortably can without losing your balance. d) If you experience dizziness, unusual loss of movement control, like falling to one side, see your doctor before continuing.
Agility Ladder. Do with a real agility-type gym ladder, or one you make on your floor at home with brightly colored duct tape, or paint. I recommend beginners create paint or tape ladders until you’ve gained some skill. The squares should be 18” wide.
Exercise 1: Begin at one end of ladder and run across it, placing each foot into each square. Try to lift your knees as high as you can.
Exercise 2: Stand sideways at one end of ladder, then step one foot into a sqaure, then step back, then step your other foot into the next square, and so on, until you move across the ladder.
Obstacle Course Run: Set up 3 objects large enough, and far enough apart, for you to run around, in and out of, without tripping on them. These can be chairs, tables, tires, etc. Start by running around the objects once, then in-between them, like a figure-8, then around them again. Have someone time you. Increase your speed without compromising performance.
One-Leg Balance. Beginners can stand on a flat surface, but after you’ve gained some skill, perform this on a gym balance disk for greater gains. Stand hands on hip, bend one leg at the knee, out behind you. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch sides. Aim for longer times – 10, 20, 30 seconds.
Rope Jump. Just like jumping rope as a kid, the object is to clear the rope above your head and beneath your feet as you jump. Start jumping using both feet, then switch to one leg at a time. Aim for 1-2 minutes to start, then progress to 5 minutes. A great aerobic workout as well.
ABC training can help you stay independent in your movements without assistance from anyone or thing. It also helps prevent falls and life-threatening fractures. But, it can also up the level of fun and adventure you can continue to get out of life as it helps you stay recreationally active as you get older. If you focus on adding more ABC training to your fitness routine, bowling, bicycling, or rock climbing at age 90 can still be real choices for you!
Mark Bromson, M.D.
Agility, Balance and Coordination Training, http://forever-active.com/agility-balance-and-coordination-training-50-2,agility-balance-and-coordination-training-50-2
Agility Ladder, http://www.brianmac.co.uk/agility.htm
ABC Training, http://www.livestrong.com/article/439182-agility-balance-coordination-power-speed-exercises/