South Florida Hospital News
Sunday August 25, 2019

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June 2008 - Volume 4 - Issue 12




The Greatest Risk to Exercise Is Not Getting Started

Seniors can put function into their life with Functional Fitness, in their own home. With today’s medical care, life expectancy is 100. Research has shown that Seniors over sixty-five have the greatest strength gain (up to 35%) by adding exercise to their daily schedule. Functional Fitness helps improve your strength, balance, posture and flexibility, as this type of exercise will mimic an action of everyday living. Since we walk on our feet, we must think of the feet first. This is where balance starts. Flexibility in the feet is an important factor for balance in the elderly. To be able to walk with the least amount of effort and maintain balance, flexibility is required. Balance exercises for the elderly will help with their independence and avoid injuries that could result from falls. An easy exercise to do is to sit on the couch, raise your foot off of the floor and draw the alphabet in the air with your right foot first and then your left foot, moving the foot from the ankle, not the hip.

Not only does this exercise improve the range of motion in the ankle, but strengthens the leg. Which brings us to the next thing to think about, our strength. Getting out of a chair is the most functional action an elderly person performs. This is sometimes limited, due to weak muscles in the legs. To improve this situation, practice standing up from a secure chair. To start, put the back of a chair against the wall, stand in front of the chair, slowly sit down and then stand up, not using your hands. If this is too difficult, place a cushion on the chair and sit on the cushion (without plopping), then stand up. Do this ten times, rest for thirty seconds and repeat. Concentrate on using the legs to get out of a chair, out of the car or stepping up on a step.

Today we hear all about the core, which is our center of balance. Unfortunately, this type of training used to be left out of the picture for the elderly. But the next thing on the list is core strength and posture. If the body is bent in a forward position, the core, which consist of the stomach muscles, cannot be utilized. First, stand up tall. Imagine that you want to be an inch taller than you are. Then squeeze the shoulder blades together and relax the shoulders. Now the stomach muscles are able to be used. Think of putting on pants that are too tight. Pull the stomach muscles towards your spine and release slightly, keeping your back straight and head up . The stomach will be strengthened by keeping those muscles active and working. This exercise can be done anytime during the day. Sitting in a chair or lying on your bed can accomplish the same results. Place your hand on the abdomen, over the bellybutton. Then feel the rise and fall, by using the stomach muscles, not the strength in your hand.

The kitchen is a great place to practice balance. Your kitchen sink is not just for dishes anymore. Holding on to the sink, transfer your weight to one leg and pick up the other leg. Find something to look at and focus on one object. Feel the balance coming from your feet, to your legs, then to your stomach. Your goal will be to stand on one leg for one minute (60 seconds). Start with 5 seconds, then 10, working up to 60 seconds. This moderate exercise will help improve the health and balance of seniors, which will improve their activities of daily living.

Other ways to get strong and have fun doing it.

  1. Sitting in a chair - Blow up a balloon, tie it (this is exercise in itself) and volley it to another person reaching and stretching to reach the balloon each time. Try to not let it drop to the floor.
  2. Sitting in a chair – Use a beach ball or children’s play ball and bounce the ball to another person as hard as you can.
  3. Sitting in a chair – Have someone roll the ball to you and kick it.
Older adults hurt their health more by not exercising than by exercising. Remember, it’s never too late to improve your health and lifestyle. Start improving your life today in your own home.
Sheree Thomas, CPT, LMT, Set for Fitness, can be reached at (561) 251-4164 or visit
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