As you age, you may notice the tendency to be able to do less and less on your own. But, things don’t have to be that way. If you can learn to strengthen your muscles through resistance training, and you can apply that training in a way that mimics the movements you make on a daily basis and that mirrors the activities you enjoy, you will be better able to continue a normal lifestyle as you age.
In two different studies—one of men 50-70 years of age who lifted weights three times a week for 16 weeks, and the other of women 40-70 years of age who lifted twice a week for one year, bone density in the leg and back was shown to increase. There is also some evidence that walking can increase bone density in the hips and lower back, but the recommendation for frequency and intensity of the walking is not clear. What is clear is that exercise does help build or preserve bone density, and so it is recommended that we stay active for the sake of our bones and overall health.
Walk a straight line: Look for a straight line on the floor (like floor tiles) and try to walk along it. The key here is to land with one foot directly in front of the other and also land on your heel first. Try with arms extended out and then relaxed at your sides. To progress, try walking forward to one end and then backwards to the other. Then try walking forward only with your eyes closed. Walk back and forth 10 times.
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Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise your bent legs up so that your knees are stacked over your hips, keeping a 90-degree bend in your knees. Brace your core to press your low back into the floor; make sure to maintain this flat-back position throughout the entire exercise. With your palms facing each other, bring arms up to point toward the ceiling.
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For balance exercise: Do some or all of these exercises every day for best results. Have someone standing nearby to support you if you are concerned you might fall, especially for the ones where I suggest closing your eyes, since this is the most challenging. Speak with your doctor before doing these exercises if you have a balance disturbance or are concerned about whether it is safe for you to do them.
Research has found that bone mass can be increased in older women by physical activity. To determine whether physical activity can actually reduce the risk for broken hips, a large multicenter study was done. Nearly 10,000 women over 65 years of age were evaluated. The results of this important prospective (forward looking) study appeared in the July 15,1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
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