Several weeks ago I was visiting friends for a family lunch when I was stopped by the family driver. Philip, who is in his mid-60s, was curious to know what he should do to maintain his basic health and strength levels in regards to exercise. When I spoke to him he didn’t have any major motor coordination issues and was in good health, mashallah. So it got me thinking…we have been lucky enough to train the parents of several members here at Inspire Pure Fitness, some in their eighties, so I decided this month to briefly touch on possible areas to focus on in order to remain healthy as we grow older.
Our bodies are an amazingly complex system of interconnected muscles, joints, fascia, ligaments, tendons and bones as well as other tissues and organs that work seamlessly and in synchronicity. If the body is this interconnected, then it makes sense to ensure that as we age, that we train as one unit, as training individual muscles may not always be the best solution.
As we age, we tend to decrease our amount of muscle mass. With muscle loss, comes the reduction of strength and energy. Simple day-to-day tasks such as walking or carrying objects like our bags or groceries can become difficult.
The process of aging affects us in many other ways. However, I have seen firsthand in over 17 years’ experience, the effect strength training has on improving one’s ability to age gracefully.
Most injuries in the elderly tend to come from the result of a fall. By reducing the chances of falling and the injuries associated with them, you will lessen the time spent in hospitals where the majority of the elderly can become sick as they will then be immune-suppressed and in turn can pick up an infection. It is often not the fall that kills people, but the infection that follows from an injury.
According to strength sensei Charles Poliquin, balance is a skill that if not learnt by age twelve, then the chances of improving it as an adult, are drastically slim. There are even motor learning experts in Canada – who study how our brains execute complex muscle movements – that believe balance must be trained before the age of four. Please note whilst reading this, balance is not core training.
Now if you continue to strength-train throughout your life, then the chances of your balance decreasing are definitely less. With more muscle mass comes a better ability to move through the main movement patterns that humans should be expected to perform. It makes sense that if you can perform some type of pushup as you get older, then you have the ability to rebound from a fall.
Remember every exercise can be regressed or progressed. For example, an exercise such as a pushup can be performed from a standing position off a wall. The movement pattern of pushing is one of the primal movement patterns you should be able to perform.
Movement training in older persons should focus on training movement patterns. Specifically the 5 primary movement patterns: Bend and Lift (Squatting), Single Leg Movements (Walking and Lunging), Pushing, Pulling and Rotation.
Once a client is moving efficiently, we can then begin load training if required. Load training focuses on developing the earlier phases of training with the addition of external loads. The client’s goals will determine the length of development of the program design at this stage.
There is a final phase which targets the performance aspect of training. This focuses on specific training to improve speed, agility, quickness, reactivity and power.
In planning your training program you should expect your client to work through all the movement patterns in seven days. Remember that the pattern of movement of the limbs for walking, jogging or even sprinting is called a gait which requires pulling, pushing, lunging and twisting motions to propel the body forward. Gait is perhaps the most frequently used of all the movement patterns because it is a combination of the primal movement patterns. Once these basics are mastered, then you can add jumping and crawling etc. to the training combinations.
So, in summary, the ability to follow an appropriate strength training program as you age will assist you with building strength, maintaining bone density, improving balance, coordination, and mobility through increasing muscle and improving movement patterns, ultimately reducing your risk of falling and therefore maintaining your independence in performing activities of daily life.
Look out for the Primal Movement Pattern classes for adults available soon at Inspire Pure Fitness – Al Bida’a, as well as Inspire at Sahara from September onwards.