BY NAOMI FINK COTRONE
You already know that the best way to be healthy is to stay healthy. Then why is that so hard to do? Exercise plays a huge role in the successful achievement of this goal. Just think of your health in terms of the domino effect, with the lack of exercise representing the domino that’s knocking down all the others.
Following its fall, down go: mobility, muscle mass, balance, strength, endurance and cognitive performance. Fittingly, all these fallen dominos increase your chances of a fall, which causes its own domino effect, knocking over functional independence. But before you pick up a copy of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” don’t plunge into despair just yet – it’s never too late to reverse the cycle, and a little bit of effort goes a long way. Follow this quick roundup of senior exercises to stay agile.
Senior Dodgeball: This idea was inspired by Asphalt Green, a New York City non-profit that developed Skills in Motion. The training program, designed to improve functional balance, features playground games for seniors. A 2017 New York Times article describes how they play volleyball with colorful balloons; hold hands and pass around a hula hoop using only their bodies; beat rhythm sticks in the air; dance to their favorite songs; and play dodgeball, tag and fireball (rolling a ball around a circle using their hands as paddles).
The RBG Workout: Judicial Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also now known as the Notorious RBG, has recently garnered significant attention for her activity on the bench … bench press, that is. Last year, Bryant Johnson, her personal trainer, whom she considers “the most important person” in her life, released “The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too!” – a book outlining her rigorous twice-weekly workouts. Considering that, at age 85, she has one of the sharpest minds in the country, with grace and wit to match, we’ll happily fall in line with whatever her trainer tells us to do.
The Feldenkrais Method: This form of movement education originated in Israel and has attracted a cult-like following, especially in the senior community. Think of it as “physical meditation”; after all, it is equal parts mental to physical. Founder Moshe Feldenkrais said, “We move according to our perceived self-image.” By expanding your perception and increasing awareness of your body, you become more attuned and develop ways of improving your habits and navigating around your tensions. Thousands of Feldenkrais followers have said that the practice has helped them live life more fully, efficiently and painlessly. And it is super relaxing. For more information, visit feldenkrais-method.org.
Ageless Grace: The name of this global practice, which is focused on the senior community, embodies the entirety of our aspirations. Founder Denise Medved attests, “These exercises, based on everyday movements that are natural and organic, focus on the healthy longevity of the body and mind.” Ageless Grace employs a suite of “tools,” with each emphasizing a different anti-aging technique, such as “joint mobility, spinal flexibility, right-left brain coordination, kinesthetic learning, cognitive function, systemic health, balance, self-esteem, confidence and playfulness.” Practitioners claim that incorporating these tools into a regular routine promotes one’s ability to “respond, react and recover efficiently and safely.” Local Rhode Island instructors are listed on agelessgrace.com.
Go Dutch for Fall Training: If falls are inevitable, then why not be prepared? The Netherlands offers hundreds of courses geared solely toward avoiding falls and taught by registered physio- and occupational therapists. Older adults train to navigate potentially dangerous circumstances, including walking on tricky sidewalks, transitioning from standing to sitting or climbing steep staircases. In addition to becoming more physically agile, the seniors become more confident in their movements, which helps to prevent falls. They also practice falling the right way – gently, on gym mats. If you think you might fall for it, visit jasperjuinen.com to learn more.
Chair Yoga: This seated version of the ancient practice has gained a recent following. Also, it happens to be naturally suited to seniors who want to build mobility and strength, even if starting from a place of limited mobility. Interested? DoYouYoga.com offers free online classes if you’d like to try it. Devotees claim improved strength, flexibility, proprioception (knowing where your body is in space), mobility, reduced stress and clarity of mind . . . all from the comfort of your chair! So you can “ohm” while you nama-stay seated.
If you’re not already moving on a regular basis – what are you waiting for? We all know you’re not getting any younger!
In addition to the above-mentioned options, the Jewish Alliance offers Forever Fit classes almost daily (see full schedule on jewishallianceri.org).
NAOMI FINK COTRONE runs the Right at Home, an agency that provides care to elderly and disabled adults throughout Rhode Island. She is a loyal devotee of Crossfit and invites clients and their families to join her for a class.