Able Body, Stable Mind, Noble Soul
If you have exercised regularly as a child and young adult, you have helped maximise your bone production! If you continue to exercise during the middle ages post 35 and beyond, you probably have reduced the risk of osteoporosis. While people with osteoporosis may believe their bones are too brittle to risk exercising, the truth is a regular scientifically designed workout program can help strengthen bones and muscles, improve coordination and balance and make you more flexible to move gracefully as you age.
The best exercises to build and maintain bone density are weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises. Any activity that works on your bones and muscles against gravity is called a weight bearing exercise – for example walking that makes you stand upright against gravity. In that sense, while swimming and cycling are good forms of aerobic exercises, they are not weight bearing and so don’t directly contribute to bone health. The best way to build muscles is by lifting weights – using elastic bands, free weights or weight machines. Performing strength training exercises 2 to 3 days a week is mandatory for both men and women. Aerobic exercises are not enough to keep you healthy! You need strength and balance training to maintain bone and muscle mass and prevent losing balance.
While our concern as adults is to recover lost grounds in terms of our personal health and exercise regime, it is also important to focus on the next generation and build a firm foundation of healthy bones and muscles in children. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning association (NSCA) recommend that prepubescent children (about 7 to 13 years of age) can safely engage in strength training with very specific guidelines and limitations (see box). But as they lack the androgens (testosterone and androsterone), the program has to be very specifically and scientifically designed to prevent injury. In fact, a proper guided exercise program is safer than many other sports and activities. There is enough and more evidence that beginning a structured exercise routine in children from the age of 7 can help build a healthier child marching robust into adulthood. By increasing the child’s awareness on health and teaching him to respect his body, we can also inculcate good and healthy habits that prevent the child from abuses and indulgences. Let us build a healthy world!
Sample exercises you can perform right at home with a pair of 1 litre water bottles (filled) for strengthening your muscles and bones
- Always begin with a warm up by dynamically stretching your body from head to toe
- For the arms & shoulders: Hold one water bottle in each hand and swing your arms front (like marching) and all the way up and gently bring down. Repeat ten times. Wait for 20 seconds and perform 10 repetitions again. You can do the same with a side ward swing (like flying) and all the way up, on an alternate day.
- For the Chest: Any of the Push up variety – Wall push ups, modified push ups, regular pushups, explosive push ups. One repetition less than failure for 2 sets.
- For your back: Dead lift with the two water bottles performed in correct form will go a long way to build your back muscles. In addition to 10 repetitions-2 sets of the dead lift, a spinal extension on the floor or on a swissballx will also be a great way to strengthen the entire spinal column.
- For your legs: Nothing like a free squat or Lunge. To add spice, hold the two water bottles . Perform 10 to 12 repetitions, 2 sets.
- For your Core: Nothing works as it should if you haven’t learnt to activate your TA muscles (exercise detailed in the December 2013 issue of Food & health). With an active core, perform the plank or iron man hold for 40 to 60 seconds. Adding the T-stand on either side and a pelvic bridging for 30 to 60 seconds will be great.
- Cool down with static stretches
All these exercises and many more are available with graphics and instructions in the Maverick Community.
By Gita Krishna Raj printed in Food & Health magazine in November 2015.