Regardless of your age, exercise history, health or physical conditions, there are many ways to overcome mobility issues and reap the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise. Applying special training techniques, or modified training can help relieve different physical or underlying health restaints like: muscle tightness or soreness, strains, tears, arthritis, osteoporosis, body part replacements, diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure. Modified techniques provide cautious, less intense training sessions for individuals within an older population, too; keeping their bodies mobile while minimizing the risk of injury.
Here are 6 tips to help you modify your workouts. They are applicable to ALL populations, but are particularly beneficial to anyone with orthopedic issues.
1. Opt for Low-Impact Cardio: Low-impact exercises are characterized by one foot always being in contact with the ground. Low-impact moves include:
- hamstring curls,
- modified jumping jacks (heel kicks),
- marching in place,
- and basic step work.
These moves minimize joint impact while promoting bone density and aerobic endurance and are most beneficial for older adults and individuals with back or lower body orthopedic issues.
2. Keep it Functional: It's important to incorporate movements that mimic everyday activities. Some examples include:
- overhead presses and front raises which mimic movements we do when we reach up overhead, or lift something overhead.
- Step-up’s, or even weighted step-up’s help to prepare us for real-life stair climbing where it is easy to lose balance and take a bad fall.
- Core-centric exercises like torso rotations or any twisting motion prepares us for similar movements we do in daily activity where we could torque our knees, back, or hips if done improperly.
3. Add Balance Exercises: It is important to incorporate various progressions of stability exercises to develop core strength. This is vital for
- improving posture,
- and coordination.
This type of movement allows us to feel safe in everyday activities, particularly older adults who have an already diminished sense of equilibrium. Some examples of exercises include:
- standing exercise in staggered stance (providing less base of support and therefore less stability),
- standing single-leg exercise (holding one leg up and catching a ball),
- or a standing two-legged exercise on an unstable surface (balance disk, Bosu ball, Swiss ball, etc.)
4. Non-Traditional Strength Training – Isometric: This type of strength training method differs from the basic repetitions done with an eccentric (lengthening) and concentric (shortening) movement. Isometric strength training involves holding a muscle contraction with no change in muscle length/ joint movement for a designated period of time. It is an excellent tool for building bone density, which is very valuable to patients with arthritis or osteoporosis. Specific exercise examples include:
- static bicep curls (held in the concentric position),
- static lunges (holding the deepest portion of the lunge),
- and a squat-hold (holding the deepest part of the squat – parallel to the floor).
5. Cardio or strength training (without use of the lower body): This type of workout would include any seated machine that focuses on upper body movement, such as
- a hand bike
- or rowing machine.
This type of exercise increases aerobic capacity and muscular strength while eliminating low body impact, which is especially valuable to patients of
- recent low body surgeries and/or joint replacements,
- severe arthritis/osteoporosis,
- or individuals confined to a wheelchair.
6. Get in the Water: Water aerobics is a great cardio format that offers benefits for people with orthopedic or health issues.
- Buoyancy allows for less, if any, impact on the joints, making workouts safer for people with joint issues.
- The deeper the water, the less impact there is on the body. And deep-water cardio exercises like suspended cycling, treading or lap swimming have no weight-bearing effects at all.
- The low-impact nature of water exercise promotes bone density and combats osteoporosis.
- Hydrostatic pressure keeps heart rate and blood pressure down, which is valuable for patients of hypertension or forms of heart disease.
- The natural resistance of water allows the body to achieve strength-training benefits during ALL exercises performed, as water has 15x more resistance than air.
- Resistance training can be performed in the water with far less stress on the joints using noodles, water weights, paddles and aqua gloves to name a few.
Most land-based exercises are transferrable to water exercise including –
- jumping jacks,
- forwards/backwards movement (running, zig-zags, grapevines, and high knees).
Remember, any type of exercise that you can do given your conditions will offer you benefit. After all, the key is movement.