Modifying Your Fitness Routine to Stay Healthy as You Age


The older we get, the more our bodies change. We find that some things that we used to do easily have become difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, it is important to keep moving. It is just as important to modify what we do to accommodate the changes in our bodies. Some of the moves need to be dropped altogether. We can replace them with other more appropriate moves in our fitness routines.

Some Things You Should Probably Remove from Your Fitness Routine 

Leg presses are at the top of the removal list. When doing this exercise, you straighten your legs, pushing with your feet against a weighted platform.  Because your upper body is supported by a padded bench, you think that your lower back is protected. Your lumbar spine has a naturally arched shape, and you need to keep it in that position to avoid injury. In a leg press, your lower back often flattens when you bend your legs and then arches as your straighten them. If you are trying to press too much weight, you can damage your spinal discs. 

Crunches present the same problem as the leg press. When you flatten your lower back against the floor while raising your head and shoulders, you can feel the squeeze in your abdominal muscles. You then go back into an arch when you lower yourself. While the weight you lift is not excessive, the repetitions can cause stress. 

Running seems like the most natural way to get your body into better shape. Everyone agrees that bodies are designed to run, but running is only for those bodies that are young and relatively lean. For older and generally heavier bodies, the repeated impact of running can cause real damage if you begin late in life. If you take more than 2,000 strides per mile, with each one you land with an impact equivalent to three to four times your body weight. The bodies of experienced runners are usually unaffected, but if you have never run, age 65 isn’t a good time to begin.

The upright row is not a good exercise for middle-aged and beyond who sit too much, usually hunched forward over a desk or electronic device, giving them tight muscles in their chest and upper back and weak neck and middle-back muscles. The upright row involves pulling a weight vertically with those same overly tight upper-back muscles, making them even tighter. 

The chest press exercise can also be problematic, since it involves repeatedly squeezing the chest muscles, muscles that might be already too tight in many people. Seniors should avoid this exercise altogether if using free weights. A chest press machine is safer, but one should always use a low weight, moving slowly and smoothly.  If in doubt, ask a trainer or your doctor if the exercise is a safe one for you. 

Some Exercises that Are Often Too Difficult to Do Correctly

The overhead press is one of those “too difficult to do” exercises. Do this exercise only if you can push two dumbbells straight above your shoulders without bending backward.  Being able to do this exercise correctly is the key to safety. Many find they can only lift the weights diagonally, making their arms travel forward rather than being aligned with their torso and legs. Doing the exercise incorrectly makes it tough on the shoulders. Without care, it will easily strain the muscles and connective tissues that hold the joints together. 

The deadlift involves lifting a heavy weight like a barbell straight from the floor. Only healthy young athletes or strength enthusiasts find the deadlift effective. Although it is a great exercise, few people do it correctly.  The biggest problem occurs if you begin with your body bent forward at the hips, but then straighten your hips as you pull the weight from the floor. This exercise is unsuitable for those unaccustomed to weight lifting because it takes a lot of strength in the hip and torso muscles to keep the lower back in a safe position.  If the back shifts out of its natural arch at the beginning of the lift and then moves back into it at the end, the risk of a disc injury is high.

Holton, Jody. “Healthy Living.” Rpt. in the Port Arthur News. July 28, 2017.  

Submitted by Lynne James

Informative and Protective Services Committee