Many of us probably remember the commercial for Life Alert... "Help, I've fallen and I can't up!"
Why is there a market for a personal medical alert device? Why do aging adults end up at risk for these accidents or end up in assisted-living facilities? It’s right there in our blog title: It comes down to not being able to get up off of the toilet. It may sound harsh, but it’s a very real thing. Or maybe it's not being able to get up off the couch, or get up off the ground if you fall.
More to the point, the reason aging adults end up going to assisted-living facilities is a loss of their independence.
As we age, basic movement becomes more difficult. We have more aches and pains which often leads to people avoiding certain movements. People retire, they might be less active or have fewer reasons to get up and out of the house. Perhaps they sit all day or simply putter around the house and soon, their muscles atrophy.
That’s why it’s so important to stay active as we age. We need to find and stick to an exercise routine to preserve our independence for as long as possible. Not just for our own sakes, but also so our children won’t have to take care of us (or pay someone else to).
The exercise needs of the aging population only varies by degree. What is standing up from the toilet or couch? It's a squat. What happens when someone falls and gets back up? A burpee. How do groceries get unloaded from the car? With a farmer's carry. How is a box or heavy item picked up off the floor? A deadlift.
Aging adult athletes may not be breaking gym records, but they are more than capable and can always perform modified versions of the same workout the rest of the class is doing. And a good coach will know how to guide them through every step of their journey. Intensity is relative for every person in the gym regardless of age, while range of motion and movement goals are essentially the same for everyone.
Strength training is also critical for aging adults because it helps prevent and reverse osteoporosis (brittle bones). Even minor slips and falls often result in broken bones in aging men and women due to low bone density. Lifting heavy objects increases that bone density and reduces risk of injury. Heavy lifting is also the only thing that will help to maintain muscle mass that we automatically lose as we age. More than just lifting, regularly engaging in movements that challenge your balance, agility and coordination also help to prevent those potentially catastrophic falls.
Group fitness classes may or may not be appropriate for all aging adults. At Chalkline, our average age is 50 years old and we have many over the age of 60 (including our two oldest members at 77 and 81... both would amaze you), and they do great in classes. Some may need to start with private sessions to build basic strength, coordination and balance and often that will remain the best option for them. The most important thing is that they get and/or remain active.
As the owner of Chalkline, I myself am 54 years old and I am not an elite athlete. I am not going to win any competitions. I am not going to break any records... I joke about it all the time. But that’s not why I work out. I work out every day so that I can fall down and get back up (burpees are actually one of my favorite things). So that I can function in my daily life. So that I can stay out of a nursing home... and so that I’ll never be trapped on the toilet.