Getting down on the floor and standing up again easily is one of those activities we take for granted all our lives — until it starts getting so hard we avoid it, and it becomes even harder. But if grandchildren or pets enter the picture, so does the need to get down and up safely.
In February, we will focus each week on this important part of functional fitness, starting today with moves to strengthen the muscles you need to get up and down.
Among the older people I work with the fear I often hear is, “I will not be able to get back up if I get down there,” closely followed by “”I am scared of falling because I will need someone to help me up and I live alone.”
Knowing how to get up from any position on the floor is critical to maintaining your independence — but knowledge isn’t enough. You need strength, too, and you can build it at any age. This is series offers gentler alternatives to workout classics like push ups, planks and bird dogs.
The muscles supporting the shoulders, arms, core and legs are especially important here, along with the joints in the wrist, elbows, hips and knees. Above all, we’ll work on getting the body and mind to work together.
As always when working out, wear comfortable clothing, supportive footwear and avoid distractions so you can focus on proper form and correct breathing. Counting out loud helps you maintain normal breathing — rather than holding your breathe — and maximize oxygen flow so that you do not become dizzy. Keep water nearby for sips as needed. Do this series three times a week, and by the end of February you should feel a real difference.
Wall pushups: for all-around upper body strength
Stand upright, feet hip-width apart, facing a wall.
Put both hands flat on the wall, shoulder height and width. Bend your elbows and lean into the wall until your head almost touches the wall then extend your arms and push yourself away from the wall back into an upright position. Keep your body straight and do not allow your hips to swing forward or your bottom to stick out. Do 3 sets of 6 repetitions each. As you get stronger gradually move farther from the wall and increase the reps to 10 per set.
Wall plank: strengthens the core, back and hips
Still facing the wall, this time place your forearms on the wall, keeping elbows at shoulder height, and hands flat.
Move feet back as much as you can, about 2-3 feet. Relax your neck and pull in your abdominal muscles while breathing normally and counting to 20.
Walk your feet back toward the wall and rest your arms at your sides for a few breaths. Repeat the wall plank three times.
Standing supported bird dog
Remain about 1.5 to 2 feet away from the wall. Put both hands on the wall at shoulder height and width.
Focus your gaze at the wall, and slightly bend your left knee and right elbow. Tighten your abdominal muscles to support your back. Extend your right leg and left arm out behind you as you lengthen your spine. Hold for two breaths, then switch sides. Complete five full sets, then sit down and take a 5-minute break.
Again facing the wall, put both hands on the wall at shoulder height and width.
Keeping your right foot flat, slide your right toes forward until just a few inches about 1/5 of a foot from the wall, with your knee close to the wall. Place your left foot back into a lunge position and lower the knee towards the floor about 5-10 inches and up again. While doing this movement, you can slide your arms down the wall if it is more comfortable. Do this 5 times then return to the starting position and change legs. Repeat 5 times on each side.
With your back to the wall, feet hip-width apart, pull your abdominal muscles in and press your back into the wall as you walk your feet out about 12 inches.
Slide your back down the wall as you bend your knees and continue to slide your feet forward until your knees form a 90-degree angle with the wall (parallel to the floor). Your feet are flat on the floor, toes wide and relaxed. Hold for 4 deep breaths, extending the time as you get stronger.
Rotating your wrists in both directions and making a fist and releasing it quickly helps to bring blood flow to the wrists and improves their strength and flexibility. This helps your hands and wrists support your weight as you get down and up from the floor. You can do these simple moves any time, such as when watching TV or waiting in line.