Very often people do not do something because they have a preconceived fear that they cannot do it; that they’re too weak, or too slow, or they might fall down and break something. If you’ve heard these things from our Westerners or Europeans, you’d hear it 10 times more frequently among us Asians. It is very much a part of our culture that when we start hitting our 50s, all we’re told to do is to sit down, watch TV, rest, eat more, stay indoors. And that’s what every senior Malaysian I know does, safe for a minority group of runners/gym goers who are even more active than the youths!
Now, in my humble opinion, all they’re doing to themselves is making themselves age even more by being sedentary. Muscle Sarcopenia is what they call the loss of muscle due to aging. In some references I have found, you lose about 0.5-1.0% of your muscles every year when you hit 35 years old. By the time you’re 50 you would’ve lost at least 10% of your muscles. Those are the numbers and we should just accept them as part of life, yes? Wrong.
We can slow down Sarcopenia and I think you know how. What do we do to build muscles? We exercise! It is never too late for a person to start exercising, so long as you are breathing and moving. Even if you have a disability, there is always a way to work up a sweat. There are 2 categories of exercise, as you already know, and they are Strength Training and Cardio Training. Both of these can and SHOULD be practised by senior citizens and I will tell you why and how.
In simple terms, more muscles = more strength. So do more strength training, gain more muscles, gain more strength. When you’re in your golden ages, you will definitely find that your strength is no where near what you had in your youth. And now you know it is due to muscle loss. When you lose muscle, you’re also losing the ability to control your movements well, hence your sense of balance gets affected, and thus the risk of falling or injuring yourself is increased. Packing on some muscles onto your bone frame can go a long way in ensuring you feel stronger, you move better and you are at a lower chance of falling!
How to gain more muscles is pretty simple. Resistance training is your answer.
1. Lifting Weights is one way to do it. Start with light weights (3 Lbs or less) and progress gradually. Do 10 times of a basic move and 3 sets of each move. Ensure plenty of rest and water breaks in between sets.
2. Body Weight resistance training is also great. Simple things like standing up and sitting down on a chair works your thigh muscles. Again 3 sets of 10 repetitions may be sufficient for starting out.
This has to do with your heart. If you have lived the past 40 years of your life being sedentary, chances are your heart is extremely weak, and that’s the reason why you feel tired all the time, NOT because you’re old. But I say, why not start now? Training your heart a little bit every day will ensure you a much high quality of life. Not only will you tire less easily, you will find that you fall sick far less frequently and you will be able to go on holiday vacations with your loved ones without feeling the strain too much.
Some simple things you can do are:
1. Walking. Do this every morning/evening. Forget about the distance, just think about the time. Start with 15 minutes of walking and if even that makes you pant, then be glad you’re starting our now. Gradually increase the time to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and work your way up to 2 hours if you can. When you’re fit enough, try mixing it up with a bit of jogging. :)
2. Swimming. If you can swim, and you don’t like walking because it’s too hot and sweaty, then swim! Same principle applies, start slow and gradually build up the time.
3. Dancing. There are so many line dancing groups out there which you can join in for free or a very minimal fee. Just ask! There could be one just right outside your front gate!
4. Tai ci/Qi Gong. Also many groups of which have sprouted out of no where in our neighbourhood playgrounds and fields. For those of you who want something slower-paced, try this out.
I’ve a grandfather who is in his 90s. When I graduated from New Zealand and came back to Malaysia, he asked me how to increase his leg strength. He walks with a walking stick very slowly, and his balance is not quite there, so I had him holding on to the side of a chair and getting him to sit and stand up from the side of his bed. I told him to do it 10 times, but he misunderstood me and thought he had to sit down slowly in 10 seconds, and so he counted as he lowered his bum down and at his own accord he started to increase the count to 20 and then to 30. He told me his thighs were feeling sore the next day and he was very glad about it ♥. If he can do that, I’m sure many of you can.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it takes persistence and discipline for you to gain your strength. Do your training every day and you’ll definitely see results in a couple of months. If there are any doubts, feel free to drop me a line, I’d be more than happy to help you out!
E-Mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org :)