Exercise for the sake of exercise has always been excruciatingly boring for me. Fortunately, I’ve always had physically demanding hobbies. Unfortunately, being a weekend warrior doesn’t work so well after 50. Muscles and tendons that have lain dormant from Monday through Friday may not jump-start into action without injury.
With osteoarthritis (just about everywhere), postmenopausal osteoporosis and misaligned kneecaps (one prosthetic), I realized some kind of regular stretching and muscle toning was essential if I wanted to continue hefting bags of mulch and animal feed on weekends.
I picked the brains of physical therapists and amateur weight-lifters, read articles by senior fitness gurus and listened to my own body. To stay with the program, it couldn’t be too time-consuming, too easy or too challenging. I’ve followed this workout routine for two years — and continued pursuing my labor-intensive hobbies with minimal injury.
Daily Walks (40 minutes)
I walk my dog 1.5-2 miles every morning, rain or shine. The grassy terrain is soft on aging feet, but filled with elevation change. I wear heavy-duty hiking boots, each weighing 2 pounds. The dog is great incentive. The walks drain off excess energy that can cause canine behavior problems, while also deepening the canine-human bond.
Core Exercises and Stretches, Alternate Days (20 minutes)
- Bend over, legs straight and together: touch knuckles to floor. (10 times)
- Bend over, legs straight and spread apart: twist to touch opposite toe, alternating twist. (10 times)
- 10 Achilles Tendon stretches against a wall
- 40 crunches or sit-ups
- 10 straight leg lifts, lying prone
- Standing with arms bent and hands grasping the sides of a door, step into doorway to stretch chest muscles. (8 times)
- Forward leaning rest (in lieu of push-up): hold for a count of 15 (6 times)
- With a chair nearby to prevent falling, stand on right leg, holding left ankle in back with both hands (quad stretch). Hold for 60 seconds. Repeat with other leg. (This is great for balance.)
Upper Body Weight-Lifting, 2-3 Times a Week (20 minutes)
Using 5-pound weights for the straight-arm exercises, 8 pounds with bent arms, I repeat each lift 15 times:
- Reverse Curls
- Lift straight arms forward, from hips to 90-degree angle.
- Lift straight arms laterally, from hips to 90-degree angle.
- With arms bent — elbows at waist, hands at shoulders — straighten arms above head.
- Lying supine, with arms bent, straighten arms from chest to ceiling.
- With right arm bent, elbow to ceiling, hand behind shoulder, straighten arm. Repeat with left arm.
- Bending forward over chair, make rowing motion with right arm. Repeat with left.
- Bending forward, with arms hanging down, butterfly straight arms out to the side.
- Bending forward, with arms hanging down, lift (straight) arms toward back.
- With elbows at waist, bend forearms from horizontal position in front of body, until hands touch shoulders.
“Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles,” Mayo Clinic, 10/1/11
“Walking: the Easiest Exercise,” AARP Bulletin, 12/21/11
“Weight Training: Improve Your Muscular Fitness,” Mayo Clinic, 2/12/11