I thought I’d write a quick blog post to discuss the simple movements that we all take for granted, but if we lose the ability to perform will have a significant impact down the line!
The movements below are the absolute basic requirements I would suggest to be able to live independently and comfortably into old age.
Commonly we see movements deteriorate as we age and lose strength, and these are often the most important movements that enable us to lead a more independent life into old age.
A big focus of what I believe we should all be training for is the long-term benefits of training rather than the shorter term (which are important but need to be balanced against the long-term outcomes)
Training in the gym should complement and enhance these life skills, not detract from them due to creating further injury or immobility for the sake of just getting bigger arms!
The modern-day lifestyle for many people involves excessive amounts of time sitting, hunched over a phone or computer and moving a relatively small amount. As a result, back pain, hip, neck and shoulder pain and movement issues are unbelievably common and if anything on the rise as more time is spent from a younger age craning over a phone screen.
In most cases, these issues are relatively straight forwards to avoid and/or recover from by simply adding in a daily mobility routine (like the one HERE) for 10 minutes, taking each joint in the body through its full range of motion and focussing on moving more generally throughout the day, but in the same light, insufficient movement daily coupled with the bodies adaptability means that its also very easy to work yourself into these pain states.
If you can keep pain free, these 5 simple, yet essential skills below should be manageable for you throughout your life!
5 essential skills to try and maintain for life:
1. Be able to get up off the floor unaided
If you fall over, getting back up can be difficult, and I’m sure you all know someone in your family who would struggle with this. But as you age, if you can maintain enough strength and mobility to complete this seemingly simple skill, you will be much more able bodied and confident, especially into old age – it’s also simple for anyone to practice anywhere.
In-gym exercises that support this: Burpee, Turkish Get up, Press up, Lunge
2. Be able to touch your toes from standing with straight legs
“You are only as old as your spine” – Chinese proverb
Something that a surprising amount of people can’t do, yet this is a movement that highlights several mobility issues when it can’t be done.
From a practical point of view, it will give you an idea of how easy it will be for you to pick something up of the floor (again a simple, yet important ability to retain). Having good posterior chain mobility and strength is important for reducing the risk of back pain, maintaining a healthy spine and enabling you to carry/ pick up loads.
In – gym exercises that support this: Jefferson Curl, RDL, Deadlift, Kettlebell swing, cat-camels, thread-throughs
3. Stand up from a low-ish chair unaided (the lower the better)
Another one that seems simple, yet many people simply can’t do easily without pushing themselves up or requiring assistance. This should be a movement that you can just do without too much thought.
Essentially it’s a squat, which is one of the fundamental human movements. Unfortunately it’s one that in the western world we neglect and the number of people (even relatively young) who cannot squat well with just their bodyweight is telling of issues later in life.
Seeing as we tend to spend a good chunk of our lives in a seated position (which only seems to increase as we age) it seems prudent to be able to escape from the confines of the chair at will and with relative ease!
In- gym movements to help: low box squat, lunges, 4-point hip mobility drills, Step-ups, hip-CARs
4. Reach your arms overhead fully straight
Again, something that I see a surprising number of people are unable to do. Practically, being able to lift the arms overhead and reach things off or lift things onto high shelves is a useful skill to retain. If you can’t get the arms overhead in the first place, lifting anything over shoulder height is going to be a struggle, and make life more difficult.
The shoulder is the most complex joint in the body, due to its ability to move through such a wide range of motion, and as a result is prone to injury if you don’t take care. Rotator cuff injuries are especially prevalent as we age, so maintaining good shoulder health is essential now and into later life.
The risk of injury will be exacerbated by an inability to move comfortably through your full range, and maintaining strength and control throughout this range will further reduce injury risk
Make this a focus, and you will have healthy shoulders which will enable you to be much more able-bodied as you age.
In –gym movements to help mobility + strength: Hangs, overhead carries, Cuban press, external rotation, EDPR, IYTW, vertical and horizontal push/pull movements.
5. Walk/run 1k +
Humans are designed to move, walk and run, and we don’t do it enough today as a rule. But as an absolute bare minimum, the ability to get up and walk or run 1k is, I think a good baseline for everyone to aim for long-term. Hopefully most of you reading this can manage this no problem and probably could manage much more – great!
It’s the ability to get around the shop or to the bus stop in real terms, but being able to walk at least some distance comfortably is important – if walking feels difficult or painful, this IS NOT a normal state. Walking at a comfortable pace should feel fairly effortless if everything is working, as it should.
Obviously as we age issues creep in, but this doesn’t mean we have to accept them, and we shouldn’t. Far too often small issues are put down to age, and the excuse of ‘it’s too late for me now’ is given.
It’s never too late to start moving and putting your health as a priority – ask yourself whether in 30,40, or 50 years you’d rather be stuck in a wheelchair or able to walk. This is the reality of avoiding these decisions now and letting the small issues fester and develop into larger ones.
If you need help or don’t know where to start, please ask, and i will upload exercise videos and workouts to assist you.
It’s never too late to start moving, and there is good research to show that exercise improves longevity and makes you harder to kill!
If you think anyone you know would benefit from this blog, please feel free to pass it on!