Loss of muscle mass and strength is known as Sarcopenia. The loss of muscle mass involves both a reduction in the number of muscle fibers and a decrease in their size. Sarcopenia is an undeniable fact of aging and is more pronounced after 70 years of age. Many factors contribute to this age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, with the lack of physical activity being the most important. Other factors include reduced protein intake or other hormonal causes. Sarcopenia predisposes to frailty, osteoporosis, proneness to falls and fractures. The person feels a loss of stamina or strength which impacts activities of daily living like lifting objects, climbing stairs. The bright side is that loss of muscle mass due to aging is reversible.
Exercises targeted to improve strength using weights or resistance is the mainstay of treatment for Sarcopenia. A person’s body weight can also be used to do strength training, these kind of exercises are known as Calisthenics.
- Toe Stands-Stand behind a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly push up as far as you can onto the balls of your feet. Hold for 5-10 seconds, and then slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Repeat ten times.
2. Marching in place-Standing straight, lift your right knee as high as you can. Lower it, then lift the left leg. Lift and lower your legs 20 times.
3. Hamstring Curl-Stand straight with the knees only 1–2 inches apart. Hold on to the back of a chair for balance. Bend the knee to 90 degrees behind the body by lifting the foot off the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Slowly lower your leg and repeat ten times on each side.
4. Back Leg Raises-Stand behind a chair for support. Slowly lift your right leg straight back. Do not bend your knees or point your toes. Hold for a count of 5, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat ten times on each side.
5. Side Leg Lift– Stand sideways to a chair for support. Slowly lift your leg out sideways. Do not tilt your torso. Hold for a count of 5, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat ten times on each side. Once comfortable, you can wrap a weight around the ankle.
6. Sit to Stand– Sit on a sturdy chair with feet resting on the floor, about hip-distance apart. Without using assistance from hands, push yourself to stand, extending your knees. Now lower yourself back to the seated position. Repeat ten times.
7. Bridging-Start with supine lying with knees flexed together and pointing towards the ceiling, arms by your side with palms facing down. Inhale and push through your heels, lift your lower back and hips, so that the whole body from knees to shoulder is aligned in a slanting line. Your body must be resting on your upper back and shoulders. Hold for 10-15 seconds, repeat 10 times.
8. Prone back extensions-Lie on your stomach, with your face down. Position your elbows under your shoulders and then push down on your hands to raise your upper back. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat ten times.
9. Biceps Curl– Stand with arms by your side such that your forearms should extend out in front of your body. Hold the dumbbell in your hand, now slowly bring the dumbbells to your shoulder by bending your elbow. Hold for 5 seconds and go back to the starting position. Do ten repetitions on each side.
10. Triceps Extension-Sit on a chair with a lightweight dumbbell in one hand. Lift your arm straight up as if reaching towards the ceiling. Place your other hand just below the elbow of your extended arm for support. Now bend your extended arm at the elbow, keeping the arm close to your head, then bring your arm back to the starting position. Do ten repetitions on each side.
11. Overhead Press-Hold weights at your sides at shoulder height with palms facing forward. Slowly raise both arms over your head while keeping your elbows slightly bent. Hold the position for 2-5 seconds. Slowly lower your arms. Repeat ten times.
12. Wall Push-ups-Stand at an arm’s length in front of a wall. Place your hands up against the wall directly in front of your shoulders. Lean forward slightly, keep your feet flat as you slowly bring your body towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight. Repeat ten times.
Basic guidelines for exercising for the elderly–
- Start with 5-10 minutes of warm-up like walking or gentle stretching.
- Start with a lightweight of 0.5 kg. Once you can perform the full range of motion and a complete set of exercises without getting fatigued and without compromising on the quality of movement, increase weight gradually.
- Take 30 seconds to a minute break between each exercise.
- Do strength training no more than three times a week.
- Include a cool-down session of 5-10 minutes.
- Maintain a good upright posture during all exercises.
- Do not hold your breath, keep breathing regularly.
- Above all, listen to your body and work within your capabilities. Do not push too hard. Stop immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort.
Keep yourself active and reverse your sarcopenia. Ensure adequate intake of proteins and Vitamin D to achieve full benefits of strengthening exercises.
KEEP MOVING! STAY FIT!
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