Exercises

Tighten your midsection and lower back.

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and your neck supported with a pillow or rolled towel. Place one hand on each side of your ribs, and inhale, feeling your ribs extend outward laterally into your hands. Then exhale, bringing your belly button toward your spine. Repeat 5–10 times.

Stay balanced.

Decrease your risk of falls.

Single Leg "Walking"

Stand on your left leg. Move your right leg out in front of you in a walking motion as your left arm swings forward; then move your right leg behind you as your right arm swings forward. Repeat these movements for 20–30 seconds. Then do the same while standing on the right leg for 20–30 seconds, making sure to reverse the arm movements (move the left leg in front of you as the right arm swings forward; move the left leg back as the left arm moves forward).

Breathe deep.

Slow down, live consciously.

Focus your attention on your breath, either as it enters your nostrils or as it expands your abdomen. inhale and exhale. You can be sitting or even lying down, as long as you're comfortable. Keep your eyes closed, or focus on a particular object. You may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. Begin with 5 minutes a day, and slowly increase to 15–20 once or twice a day. You may also want to do this for a minute or two when you feel stressed out or overwhelmed. 

Relax your neck.

Release tension in your neck and shoulders.

Walk head first, not chin first. Keep your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible, and check on where they are several times a day. Stretch your neck by tilting your head toward your shoulder (keeping your shoulders down). You can also do a diagonal neck stretch by turning your head 30 or 45 degrees, and tilting it toward your chest. For an added stretch, use your hand to gently pull your head toward your shoulder. Hold each stretch for 15–30 seconds and repeat 2–4 times.

Stretch yourself.

               

Decrease pain and increase mobility.

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, extend your arms upward, and clasp your hands. Bend from the hip to the right as far as possible without pain or discomfort, then return to an upright position before bending to the left. Hold each bend for 5–10 seconds, and repeat 8–10 times on each side, 2–3 sets. For variety, place one hand on your hip, the other up in the air.

Save your shoulder.

Rotator cuff tears are common in older adults.

A. Arm Rotation

Bend at the waist, while holding on to a table or chair for support, and let your arm dangle down. Gently rotate your shoulder so you’re drawing circles in the air with your arm — start with small circles and work up to bigger ones.

B. Build Shoulder Strength

1. Holding a lightweight (2-lb) dumbbell, lie on your stomach on a bed or table. Stretch out your arm so your elbow bends at the edge of the bed and the hand holding the dumbbell hangs down.

 

2. Slowly raise your hand, stopping when it’s level with your shoulder, then lower it slowly. Repeat until your arm is tired, then switch sides. As your muscles strengthen, progress to using heavier dumbbells.

Stop your leaks.

Incontinence can be controlled.

Kegel Exercises

Stop leakage from both stress and urge incontinence by strengthening pelvic floor muscles. First, identify the correct muscles, those which stop urination midstream, keep you from passing gas, or,  in men, make the penis move up and down independent of the rest of the body. Next, tighten these muscles without tightening your stomach, legs, or buttocks, or holding your breath. Slowly pull up your pelvic muscles, lifting towards your belly button, and squeeze for a count of 3, then relax the muscles the same amount of time. Work up to a set of 10 contractions, each lasting 6–8 seconds, and do them three times a day, 3–4 times a week. Remember: Take as much time relaxing the muscles as you spend contracting them. In 2–4 weeks you’ll notice some improvement, and by 3–4 months you should be able to rely on them to decrease leakage.

10  Train your brain.

Use it or lose it is real.

There are changes in memory and cognition that occur with normal aging. It takes more repetition and practice to learn something new, including where you parked your car or put your keys. It’s harder to recall words and names that you haven’t used recently. Some things that can help are to really pay attention and rehearse what you want to remember and do crossword puzzles or other word games that force you to think about words you don’t commonly use. Practice strategies like writing things down, visualizing what you want to remember, or connecting it to something familiar and possibly meaningful. For example, to memorize a name you might say: “Your name is Sara? That’s my aunt’s name!” Or, “Do you spell Sarah with an h?"

Strengthen your core.

Strengthen your upper back.

Improve your posture.

Stand with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you rotate your arms outward. Keep your shoulders down. Hold the position for 3–5 seconds. Do 10 repetitions, two to three times every other day. When the exercise becomes easier because your back muscles are getting stronger, add a resistance band. Grip one end of the band in each hand as you do the exercise to increase the challenge.

Strengthen your legs.

Get up from a chair more easily.

Stand at the bottom of a staircase or other sturdy step, keeping your feet flat and toes facing forward. Step up onto the step with your right foot, straighten your right leg, and then place your left foot next to your right. Then step down with your right foot, followed by your left foot. Repeat 10 times starting with your right foot stepping up and down first, then 10 times with your left foot stepping up and down. Do three sets for each foot (if you’re unsteady on your feet, hold onto a banister or hand rail).

ROSANNE M. LEIPZIG, MD, PHD
Geriatrician, Professor, Author

 

Icahn School of Medicine

Mount Sinai

New York, NY

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