When it comes to fitness and seniors, there are a lot of misconceptions that falsely push seniors to either only engage in minimal exercise activities or cause them to give up on exercise in its entirety.
One of the commonly cited reasons for this is that seniors think that exercise isn’t safe for them, reasoning that age makes them more susceptible to falls, breaks, and injuries.
The good news is that this is not the case, and studies actually show that exercise can reduce your chances of injuries or falls the older you get, as regular exercise strengthens your muscles.
In order to become or stay fit and healthy over the age of fifty, it is important to take on the right training approach. In this article, we will take a look at calisthenics for seniors, a fitness regimen that provides functional strength to those willing to learn.
What Is Involved with Calisthenics and How Is It Beneficial?
The definition of calisthenics is routinely interchanged with the term “bodyweight training” and simply denotes any movement that utilizes the weight of your body in combination with the Earth’s gravity.
If you remember back to your early days of elementary gym classes, the numerous push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks that you performed are considered to be beginner-level calisthenic movements.
Other common activities that use calisthenics includes running, doing squats, performing gymnastics, and completing movements like lunges and burpees. What makes calisthenics so beneficial to all who practice in it is that it can be used in conjunction with other training programs, does not require a gym membership, and can be completed by virtually anyone.
What Can Calisthenics Provide Seniors?
Although regular physical activity is beneficial to everyone’s mental health and physical well-being, calisthenics provides something more to seniors than just another method of working out. When done right with proper form, calisthenics can give seniors the functional strength they need to improve posture, increase stability, increase bone density, maintain existing muscle mass, prevent falls and injuries, and provide a way to have better control over chronic diseases and conditions. Put simply, calisthenics opens the door to a functional, mobile, and fuller life.
Why Is This Important?
Unfortunately, around the age of fifty, seniors begin to naturally lose muscle mass. This process is called sarcopenia and is a major contributing cause of the functional decline and independence loss in seniors.
It is described as an involuntary loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength which has severe consequences in older adults, causing disabilities, frailty, fatigue, insulin resistance, and mortality.
Although there are numerous causes of sarcopenia, the one which calisthenics can help combat is the age-related ability or lack thereof to replace and replenish skeletal muscle. How does calisthenics combat sarcopenia? It boosts a senior’s ability to create, strengthen, and build muscle.
Other Benefits That Calisthenics Provides Seniors
- Calisthenics provides seniors with improved coordination over a period of three to six months of training, according to the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation.
- It can be done anywhere and have exceptional flexibility in modification. You can complete them in your home, at the park, or in the gym. If a regular push-up is too difficult, you can complete one against a wall or using your knees to make it easier and work your way up.
- It can be completed even if you have health issues because of how flexible a calisthenics routine can be made to be. You do not need to spend 60-minutes doing a calisthenic workout routine, as 10-20 minutes can be enough to help you develop muscle and body tone. You are able to progress at your own pace, gradually increasing your goals to match your new found strength. If, for example, you have skin issues, you can use calisthenics gloves, and wrist wraps.
- Calisthenics is effective for fat loss, weight control, muscle gain, and cardiovascular exercise.
What Are Some Beginner-Friendly Calisthenic Movements for Seniors?
For seniors who want to start off small or for those who have limiting conditions such as replaced joints, poor knees, or high blood pressure, should consider the following three calisthenic movements.
- Chair Squats. Squats are amazing for strengthening your entire lower body and core. They will help you get out of chairs with ease, enable you to bend over and pick items up off the floor and allow you to take the stairs with ease. To perform this exercise, stand in front of your chair with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your chest upright and bend your knees while pushing your hips backward. Squat down till you are either hovering above the chair seat or have grazed the top of it. Hold this position for a few seconds and then lift with your legs to regain the standing position.
- Lying Hip Bridges. This movement will open your hips up and stretch them out which is perfect for individuals who tend to sit all day long. This will hit your glutes the hardest. To perform this exercise, lie down flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor beneath you. Flatten your back down so that it is against the floor and push your hips up into the air by squeezing your glutes (bum) together. Push through your foot as if you are pushing your toes outward and pause at the top of the bridge. Slowly descend to begin again.
- Wall Push-Ups. These will help improve your upper-body strength in your chest and arms. To perform this exercise, stand a few feet away from the wall and place your hands on it, shoulder-width apart. Keep your body parallel to the wall and bend your elbows diagonally to your sides. Lower your chest towards the wall and let your heels come up off the floor. Pause when you get close to the wall then push through your hands to return to the start. The closer you are to the wall at the beginning of the exercise, the easier it will be to perform.
Wrapping It Up: You Are Never Too Old to Train
Contrary to popular misconceptions, seniors who are over the age of fifty are not too old to train and can reap major benefits from engaging in bodyweight training or calisthenic workout regimens. Beyond being able to build muscle and create a strong physical body, seniors who train with calisthenics create an environment for independence and increased vitality.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.