Legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham’s advice was, “Begin anywhere!”
For baby boomers and seniors, staying limber, active and strong is the best medicine for maintaining health and living their best life. Anyone at any age can get started and improve their quality of life by safely improving their physical health. Studies show that people with chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s benefit greatly from regular exercise, as do those with high blood pressure, balance problems and difficulty walking.
One of my clients is an 83-year-old retired orthopedic surgeon referred by his doctor. He spent a lifetime helping others while neglecting his own fitness because of his many 80-hour workweeks. Besides muscle weakness and balance issues, fortunately, he was relatively healthy. Near the beginning of our working relationship, he shared a story about a humiliating incident he experienced the weekend before. He and his wife had gone to visit a pet cemetery to put fresh flowers on their dog’s grave. After he had knelt down and paid his respects, he was shocked to find he didn’t have the strength to stand back up. Filled with panic, he waited while his wife rushed to search for help beckoning a stranger to assist get him back on his feet.
In the weeks following, we began to focus on leg and core strength exercises for one hour twice a week, starting with a warm-up of 10 minutes on the treadmill. For quadriceps and glute strengthening, we incorporated wall squats with a stability ball, eventually adding lightweights.
For core strength, we did bridge poses, floor Pilates and stability ball crunches. I recommended additional yoga poses for back strengthening and balance, and we ended each session with passive physical therapy stretches for the hamstrings, hips, inner thighs and lower back.
Eight weeks into our program, we were ready to perform a strength test. I asked him to start in a kneeling position and get back up without assistance. All of his hard work paid off as he was able to stand up on his own, smiling with joy at the accomplishment. At that moment, I felt the gratitude of helping others to get back on their feet to live their best life.
The pandemic has shed light on the importance of exercise and a healthy diet to stay strong, improve immune function and maintain emotional well-being. Whether you have fallen off track or are beginning anew, know that you are never too old or unfit to get back on your feet.
Michele is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor, nutritional consultant and founder of the Michele McCord Method. She can be reached at
(310) 923-3237 or [email protected]. For more information visit www.michelemccordmethod.com.