As we have more birthdays and our bodies change, some things that we used to be able to do with ease have become more difficult, if not impossible.
It’s important to keep moving, but more importantly, adapting what you’re doing to changes in your body. Let’s look at some moves that you should drop and some that you should incorporate into your fitness routine.
As always, if you have any questions, contact your doctor. This will be a two part column. This week we’re going to be looking at some trains that are not in your best interest.
Some that can cause problems:
Leg Press: Top of the list for several reasons. To perform the exercise, straighten your legs by pressing your feet against a weighted platform. Since your upper body is supported by a padded bench, you have the illusion that your lower back is protected. But it is not. Your lumbar spine has a naturally arched shape and to avoid injury while lifting, you must hold it in this position. With a leg press, your lower back often flattens out when you bend your legs, and then shifts back into its natural curve when you straighten them. If heavy weight is involved, this movement can damage your intervertebral discs.
Crunch: It poses the same problem as the leg press. You press your lower back flat against the floor as you lift your head and shoulders and feel the pressure in your abs, and then go back into a bulge as you lower yourself. Although you aren’t using a lot of weight – only a fraction of your body weight – you typically do a lot of repetitions.
Running: It seems like the most natural way to get in better shape. Bodies are meant to run, aren’t they? Yes, but only bodies that are young and relatively slim. For older, and generally heavier, bodies, the repeated impacts while running can cause real damage if you are starting out late in life. You take more than 2,000 steps per mile, and each time you land with a force three to four times your body weight. Interestingly, this does not apply to experienced runners whose bodies have adapted to the impact. But if you’ve never run before, age 65 is not the time to start.
Exercises that can make existing problems worse:
Upright Row: A Big Problem with Middle Aged People and Beyond. You sit too much, usually leaning forward over a desk or electronic device. This leads to chronically tight muscles in the chest and upper back as well as chronically weak neck and middle back muscles. The upright row, as the name suggests, involves pulling a weight vertically with those overly tense upper back muscles, making them even tighter.
Chest press: This exercise can also be problematic as it repeatedly squeezes the chest muscles, which are already too tense for many people. Seniors should avoid this free weight exercise altogether. The chest press is safer, but always use a light weight and move slowly and steadily. When in doubt, ask a trainer or your doctor whether the exercise is safe for you.
Exercises That Are Difficult to Do Right:
Overhead Press: If you can press two dumbbells directly over your shoulders without bending back, you can do this exercise. But make sure you get it right. Most people lift the weights diagonally so their arms move forward instead of being aligned with their torso and legs. This can make the exercise very hard on the shoulders and potentially strain the muscles and connective tissues that hold the joints together.
Deadlift: This exercise involves lifting a heavy weight (usually a barbell) straight off the floor. If you’re a healthy young athlete or strength enthusiast, not only is deadlifting effective, but it’s likely one of your favorites. It’s a great exercise, but so few people get it right.
Biggest Problem: You start with your body bent forward at your hips and then straighten your hips as you pull the weight off the floor. It takes a lot of strength in the hip and core muscles to keep your lower back in a safe position. If it moves out of its natural arc at the beginning and back in again at the end, the risk of a disc injury is astronomical.
In next week’s column, we’re going to look at some really great options that you can incorporate into your fitness routine.
Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at email@example.com.