You've heard the tales: “Oy! My hip!” Or: “Oh! My aching back!"
But a problem hip and an aching back aren't inevitable as you age. They're preventable ... if you do some key exercises to support and stabilize your body as you get older. Already there? Improve your problem spots and age gracefully with these fitness tips.
Balance: This becomes increasingly more important as you age, says Chris Clough, an elite trainer based in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Anyone over the age of 50 should practice balancing daily - and there's a super easy way to do it. When you're using the microwave, practice standing on one foot for 10-30 seconds, Clough says. Make sure you're within safe reach of the counter. Don't microwave often? Try balancing while brushing your teeth within reach of the sink.
Cardio: It's crucial to keep your heart healthy and strong to prevent heart disease, says Michael Kuang, CEO of Syphon Fitness, a holistic fitness company specializing in personal training, corrective exercise and yoga. When you do cardio, make sure you find exercises that are low impact so you won't place undue pressure on your joints. Rowing is a great option for adults over 40 who are hoping to improve their cardio endurance, looking to torch calories, strengthen their muscles and eliminate high impact on their joints, says Caley Crawford, director of education for Row House, a national boutique rowing concept. “Recruiting over 80 percent of muscles in the body, rowing is a surefire way to spike the heart rate, and one's pace is easily modifiable if he or she wants to dial down the intensity,” Crawford says.
Weights: These keep your muscles toned and strong, and they help with arthritis or osteoporosis, Kuang says. Weights will also help with posture. Try bent over rows: Take some light dumbbells or a barbell (5-10 pounds to start) and stand with your feet slightly apart, says Cary Williams, CEO of Boxing & Barbells in California. Bring your hips back as you lower your torso. Lower the weights while keeping a straight back, keeping your knees slightly bent. Then pull the weights up to the side of your body near your hips. Do three sets of 8-10 reps.
Hip bridges: This activates and engages the gluteal muscles. Translation: You can develop low back pain if these muscles are weak, as they are the prime movers of your lower body, Kuang says. Here's how you do it: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, about 4 inches apart. Keep your arms next to your body. Press into your feet and arms to lift your hips off the ground. Keep your knees in line with your feet (a yoga block between your knees will add more stability). Bring your hips up as high as you can comfortably. You can hold the position for 30 seconds, or do repetitions with the hips going up and down 20 times for 2-3 rounds.
Kneeling lunge: If you've been sitting all day, then your hips will start to get tight. This exercise will help, Kuang says. Sit on your knees on a supportive mat, bringing one leg forward and keeping the foot flat. Make sure your ankle and your knee are lined up. Bring the kneeling leg back a few inches so your knee is behind your hip. Bend into the front knee just a bit, and you should feel a stretch of the hip with the knee that's behind your body. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Do each side 2-3 times.
Plank: Strengthen your core with the plank, which will also greatly help with stability and your back muscles. You can do a simple plank on your toes and forearms (or move to your knees on a mat if that was too strenuous), holding it for 15 seconds. Rest for 5 and then do it again, Williams says. Start with eight sets and build up to 30 seconds with a 5 second rest, three days a week.