Sometimes we get it all wrong when it comes to exercising as we age. We start dealing with a few aches and pains, cutting back on our workouts, primarily for fear of getting injured. We only do exercises that won't hurt our joints or strain us.
Well, that's all wrong! Instead, let's focus on strengthening those weakened areas, making them stronger rather than steering clear of them.
Why? Well, sitting around lamenting your aching joints certainly won't help them stop aching. Moreover, doing nothing to build them up actually increases your chances of getting injured; it makes you more susceptible to losing your balance, falling, and perhaps suffering a painful twist or, heaven forbid, broken bones.
Before that happens, let's get to work strengthening those critical joints.
Here are a few key body areas and moves that will make them stronger (be sure to also check out our Strengthen Your Joints video to see these moves in action):
SHOULDERS: You don't usually think of your shoulders as areas for joint pain or in dire need of strengthening. However, you might have suffered an injury back in the day playing sports and now the injured area is tight and weak. This can create an imbalance in your body that may lead to other worries, most noticeably your back. Also, your arms and shoulders are critical for everyday functional moves, such as reaching and lifting.
Key move: Lateral raise. Choose a set of dumb bells (light to start, no more than 6 lbs). Bend your arms about 90 degrees so that the weights are parallel to each other just out in front of your body. Now lift your elbows as if you're flapping your wings. Bring back to starting position. That's one rep. Do three sets of 10 reps.
WRISTS: This is another oft-used and oft-neglected part of the body that can become troublesome with age—particularly for those with careers requiring a lot of keyboard use. It's vital to keep the wrists strong, both to stave off any tightening and weakening and to allow you to continue to play most sports, i.e. tennis and golf.
Key move: Wrist curls. Sitting in a chair with a dumb bell or barbell, rest your elbow(s) on your knee(s) with the palm up and the weight in your hands. Slowly allow the weight to curl downward until it's largely being held by the tips of your fingers. Then roll the weight back upward, bending your fist towards you. That's one rep. Do three sets of 10-12 reps with each hand (if you use a dumbbell).
ELBOWS: Again if you play any sport, you may have to battle soreness, weakness, or strains in this area. Keeping the muscles around your elbows strong will help stave off some of those pains and potential injuries.
Key moves: Forearm rotations. Standing or sitting, grab a light set of dumbbells with your arms at your side. Now lift them and hold the weights away from your body with arms straight out. Now simultaneously rotate the weights outward, then inward for 15 reps. Lower arms. Do three sets.
Overhead Triceps. Take one dumbbell in both hands, hold one end and lift it above your head, then bend your elbows, allowing it to fall towards the small of your back. Now straighten the elbows, lifting the weight overhead once again. That's one rep. Do three sets, 8-12 reps.
ANKLES/FEET: Weak ankles and feet can really cramp your lifestyle. Every step is a chore, a pain, limiting your ability to balance and perform. Yet weakened ankles grow more common as we age, either from old sports injuries or simple lifelong wear and tear. So strengthening them is vital to staying active.
Key move: Heel lifts. Stand with your feet about shoulder with about, then slowly lift your heels placing your weight onto your toes. Hold for a couple of beats them lower your ankles. That's one rep. Next, turn your toes inward (pigeon-toed) and repeat the move above. Finally, turn your toes outward (essentially, a plié) and repeat the move. (Changing the position of the toes allows you to work the muscles on all sides of the ankles and feet, providing you with a strong foundation for sports or just everyday living!)
KNEES/HIPS: Okay, anyone whose knees don't ache, please raise your hands? I thought so. If you live long enough, your knees and hips are gonna hurt. Period. Whether you've been active or, especially, if you haven't been. But the aches and soreness don't have to last forever. There are myriad exercises to strengthen these areas, and each of them should be part of your regular regiment. Like other moves, the goal is to strengthen the muscles around joints, boosting stability and balance.
Key move: Standing squat. Very simple move. With your hands on your hips and feet shoulder-width apart, slowly bend your knees, lowering yourself only to the point that you remain pain-free. (Make an effort to keep your knees straight out over your feet and your back either straight or slightly leaning forward.) Then rise to the starting position. That's one rep. Do three sets of 8-12 reps. As you get stronger after a couple of weeks, try to go lower, but only if you can do so without pain.
Healthy living tips for the 50+ brought to you by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.