This first post let’s start at the beginning by addressing the primary anti-fitness issue in our society – too much sitting. There’s a body of research on sitting that makes it clear it is quite a toxic position. Sitting has even been termed “the new smoking”; with a strong association between the amount of time you spend sitting and the incidence of many modern degenerative diseases.
The body is quite adaptive: for every hour/day you spend sitting your body is molding itself into a shortened, compressed and dysfunctional position. Sitting stiffens joints and tissues and deconditions the muscles which hold us up against gravity and allow us to move about in a fully functional manner.
The cumulative effects of sitting really start to show up after fifty, so the older we get, the more time we should spend on mitigating the negative effects. When I start with a new client, much of our initial time together is devoted to undoing the effects of sitting – we work on mobilizing stiff joints and tissues; opening up compressed postures; remembering how to stand, balance and move on one’s feet safely and effectively; and re-learning how to change levels (move up/down) in a manner which respects the body and joints.
SPEND TIME ON YOUR FEET
I believe over-50/senior fitness begins with spending less time sitting and more time on our feet. Notice I didn’t say more time exercising. In our society we spend so much time sitting we really should start at the beginning and consider standing to be the first functional fitness activity. Next post I will address how to organize our bodies when we stand.
If you’re over-50, the most productive fitness activities involve being on your feet and as far away from the sitting position as possible. I strongly believe training your “wheels” (from the hips down to the feet) is the essence of over-50/senior fitness. Fit “wheels”, as represented by lower body feet-on-the-ground functional fitness, will keep you safer, healthier and physically independent longer as you move into older age.
Please note I’m not suggesting you never do any exercises/activities in other positions besides standing. What I am saying is exercises on your feet (if done with body/joint respecting technique) are superior for counteracting the negative effects of sitting; are the most productive and beneficial; will provide the most functional carry-over to benefit your daily life; and will provide for the best quality of life.
CURRENTLY INACTIVE? START WITH STANDING MORE
If you are currently inactive and would like to take a first step to improve your fitness, aim to spend more time standing; as long as you can do it safely. If you’re really deconditioned, standing more can be a challenge, so start with small doses and gradually add time on your feet.
One thing to notice is how often people avoid true independent standing – they will lean against and support themselves with all manner of objects. So, if you’re doing well with standing more often, the next step (again only if you can do it safely) is to minimize leaning against counters/walls/tables and work on standing using your own muscles and without external aids. It may not seem like it, but in our society this is a legitimate functional fitness activity.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR WHEELS
Over-50 fitness requires your “wheels” to be as functional as possible. If you have neglected or ignored any issues with your feet/ankles/knees/hips, your first priority should be to get them addressed medically and, hopefully, resolved before you think too much about fitness. If you have lingering issues which have been previously addressed medically, please keep trying to fix them. Go to as many medical practitioners as you need to get your issues resolved – your physical independence, safety, fitness and health depend on a well-functioning lower body.