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Trouble Spots for Older Adults (and how to fix them)!

Many of the balance and mobility issues of aging are associated with imbalanced muscle tension that throws the skeleton out of alignment. Common causes are physical inactivity, poor postural habits and lifelong movement patterns that lead to imbalance, such as playing golf or baseball. A regular functional training program that targets common muscle imbalances can have a significant impact on mobility and balance.


1. Poor Foot and Ankle ROM

Our feet are the foundation of our kinetic chain, and affect alignment all the way up the spine. Years of wearing high heels or other non-supportive footwear can contribute to tight tendons and weak muscles. A sedentary lifestyle also contributes to weak feet and ankles. Foot and ankle range of motion are often affected by edema (swelling), a side effect of many medications.

The Fix:
Ankle plantar- and dorsi-flexion (point and flex) exercises.
Ankle circles (inward and outward).
Calf raises on step with Achilles stretch in the eccentric phase.
Supportive athletic footwear.
RICE to reduce swelling.

2. Weak and Tight Hamstrings

Weak hamstrings from excessive sitting coupled with poor knee ROM cause the knees to hyperextend when standing, throwing the spine out of alignment and creating an unstable base.

The Fix:
Seated and standing hamstring stretches.
Seated or prone leg curls.
Modified deadlifts.

3. Tight Hip Flexors and Weak Hip Extensors

Excessive sitting is again the culprit, making the hip flexors tight while over-stretching the gluteal and hamstring muscles, pitching the upper body forward when standing.

The Fix:
Standing hip flexor stretch using a step or box.
Prone contralateral “Superman” contractions.
“Bird-dog” contralateral hip and shoulder extensions.
Supine hip bridges.

4. Weak Abdominal and Core Muscles

Sitting, sedentary lifestyle and poor postural habits lead to a weak pelvic floor and abdominal wall, throwing the spine out of alignment and leaving it vulnerable to pain and injury. Weak core and pelvic floor muscles also contribute to urinary incontinence and constipation, common complaints of older adults.

The Fix:
Kegel exercises.
Modified planks.
Standing trunk rotations with medicine ball.
Stability ball crunches.

5. Rounded Shoulders with Tight Pectoral and Intercostal Muscles

Sitting and poor postural habits combined with weak middle and upper back muscles cause the shoulders to round, pitching the trunk forward and causing neck pain. Tight intercostal and chest muscles can impede breathing.

The Fix:
Rowing exercises.
Lat pull-downs.
Pectoral stretches.
Intercostal (ribcage) stretches.

6. Poor Neck ROM

Inability to turn one’s head at the neck can throw the entire body off balance, leading to falls. Tight neck muscles are also a huge driving hazard that can be fatal.

The Fix:
Neck ROM exercises (L/R, up/down).
Partial neck circles (ear to shoulder, chin to chest, ear to shoulder).

7. Shallow Breathing

Taking shallow breaths can weaken the diaphragm muscle and contribute to poor oxygen uptake.

The Fix:
Focused diaphragmatic deep breathing exercises.

Resources

Older Adult Fitness presents a growing and gratifying market for Fitness Practitioners. However, before you start recruiting octogenarians, bring yourself up to speed on their special needs and limitations. W.I.T.S. has you covered with Personal Fitness Trainer and Older Adult Fitness Specialist Certifications. Already certified? Then continue your education with Older Adult Fitness Foundations, Exercise Program Design for Special Populations and Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition.

*Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net: imagerymajestic;

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One thought on “Trouble Spots for Older Adults (and how to fix them)!

  1. Thanks for the tips on trouble spots for older adults. I can use some of them myself.

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