Older man climbing stairs as exercise Climbing stairs can become difficult as we age due to loss of muscle strength and flexibility, and yet the ability to remains important to maintain independence. One of the exercises in the Strength and Balance Circuit is the Step Up. As you can see from the photos there is support there if you need it but we encourage participants to work towards being able to step up safely with no support needed.  This exercise helps improve balance, steadiness on stairs and reduces the risk of falls, in addition to all that is helps maintain muscle strength in your legs.  Climbing stairs is also an easy one to practice at home, you don't need to go to the top! Start at the bottom of the stairs and put your strongest foot on the bottom step and then push upwards and forwards with the lower foot to step up and have both feet on the bottom step. Then step down again. To start use the bannister as a balance aid, but try not to pull yourself up with your arms as you want to use as much leg power as you can. When you start to feel more confident try without using the bannister.

For those participants who do not have a problem using stairs without support it is encouraged to step up and down faster and therefore getting an aerobic response (huff & puff!) . Most exercises in the class can be tailored towards the participants goals, whether that is to improve endurance, increase strength or improve balance.

Information about Strength and Balance classes in the Chichester area

"We start to struggle with everyday activities ‘like walking up stairs’ at age 60"

Do we really need to walk 10,000 steps a day?

It's an interesting article, have a read, but the spoiler is no-one really knows (apart from the fact that walking is good for your health!).  Walking counts towards the 150 minutes of physical activity the government guidelines recommend we aim for each week. However I think the key here, no matter how many steps you are doing, is that for them to work to decrease the risk of disease (and improve life expectancy) the steps need to be of a moderate intensity. For walking that means you are going at a pace you can have a conversation BUT you couldn't sing a song!

Posture plays an important part in walking speed and ability to walk energetically. Due to injury or illness not everyone will be able to change their walking gait and I wouldn't advise that everyone immediately goes out the the door and starts altering how they walk. However this is something you can practice inside using a kitchen counter or wall as a support to get used to the movement. Good walking posture allows you to take full breaths, engage your core muscles, and use your leg and bottom muscles for a natural walking stride

  1. Try to stand up nice and tall, imagine a string attached to the top of your head, feel it lift you up from your hips so you are tall and straight. This might be quite exhausting to maintain at first so just practice doing it for a little while at a time.
  2. Try and keep your chin parallel to the ground, whilst focusing your eyes 10-20 feet in front of you this will ensure there is no tension in your upper body or strain in your neck.
  3. Let your shoulders relax with shoulders slightly back.
  4. Your arms can lend power to your walking and act as a balance to your leg motion. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and with each step the arm opposite your forward foot comes straight back (so the movement is coming from your shoulder). Your hand should not cross the middle of your body. If you find arm motion tiring do it for a couple of minutes and then let your arms relax and swing naturally at your sides.
  5. To recap correct walking gait.
    • Strike the ground first with heel
    • Roll through the step from heel to toe
    • Push off with toes
    • Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel

Practice both the walking step and posture by a kitchen counter, do a few steps and then stop and relax.

Note: If you are practising  posture by marching on the spot then the foot placement should be toes first, roll through the ball of foot and then the heel (so still needing that movement in the ankle)

Ankle mobility is key to being able to use that walking technique which will be covered in the next post.

 

I wanted to share this description of people walking which I had never thought of before!

"Walking involves all the joints of the lower limb and is characterised by an ‘inverted pendulum’ motion, in which the body vaults over the non-moving limb."   That makes it sound very impressive (and quite complicated, which it isn't)!

  1. Strike the ground first with your heel.
  2. Roll through the step from heel to toe.
  3. Push off with your toes.
  4. Swing the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.

However as we age the "proper" walking gait might become more difficult due to loss of muscle mass, osteoarthritis and decreased mobility in joints amongst other things, and that is when the hip hitch rather than lifting the knee to get the foot off the ground and the flat foot strike start to occur. 

An exercise which may help is the flamingo swing. During walking, the muscles of the upper leg, the muscles of the lower leg and the hip flexors, all work together and this exercise does the same and includes a balance element! Demonstration of the flamingo swing (with regressions and progressions)

A kitchen counter makes a great support option if you need a little bit of help to begin with.

Older adult doing flamingo swing exercise

Have a go and let me know how you get on!

May is National Walking Month and it’s about getting out more rather than how fast or how far you can walk . There are so many benefits for getting out for a walk, not least it all counts towards the 150 minutes of aerobic activity that we should be trying to work towards each week even if it's just a stroll around the garden. Try and go at a pace you are going at a pace you can have a conversation BUT you couldn't sing a song!

Here are some of the other benefits you could see

  • reduce stress
  • improve sleep
  • improve cardiovascular fitness (heart & lung health!)
  • strengthen bones and muscles
  • improve muscle endurance

(don't forget Chichester Wellbeing run a free guided walk programme more details here)

Today is World Stroke Day, strokes are the third most common cause of death and the commonest cause of disability in the UK but you can help prevent them. Strokes can happen to anyone but you have the power to reduce risk through lifestyle changes:

🚭Quit smoking
🍺 Limit alcohol consumption
🛑 Control high blood pressure and high cholesterol
✅ Manage diabetes (or even better put T2 into remission)
🏋🏾‍♀️ Watch your waist and weight
🍏 Eat healthy
🏃🏾‍♂️ Exercise regularly 30 minutes a day

After a stroke it is important to start making exercise a part of your routine, both for further prevention and rehabilitation. Participating in exercise may improve both physical fitness, physical function and reduce the chance of a secondary stroke.

If you would like more information about exercise after stroke then please download this information sheet written by the Stroke Association.

Exercise and stroke

I hope you have found the last five blog posts informative. The infographic is a great way to get out a lot of information in an easily read format but sometimes it's nice to have a little more detail, and as I stated in the first post you can read the whole report with all the Activity guidelines for the various categories here.

...continue reading