Senior Fitness Redefined
Balance and mobility issues are the two most common problems that seniors face today. All too often when I sit down with a new client to go over their current exercise plan, they will explain how they work every muscle individually on twelve different machines and their balance and mobility has gotten worse over the years. First off your brain is not wired for isolating muscle it’s wired for movement 100% of the time, that is what the science tells us and that is why weight machines are completely ineffective. Two, weight machines will never improve your balance or mobility because they completely mask balance and alignment issues, and put undue stress on our joints which will negatively affect your mobility. Third, using an unstable surface for improving one’s balance will not magically improve your balance or “get you more core” as some might say. If you can’t achieve proper balance on stable ground, there is minimal chance that all of a sudden by making the environment more challenging everything is going to click in place.
A big factor relating to poor balance is as we age over time we will over time make a switch from using our trunk (mid-section) as a primary mover to the lower and upper body initiating movement first and the trunk following suit, and the trunk will not accept this and this is what leads to what is called an open circuit fault and you will fall into this reactive stabilization model because you no longer make an effort to properly stabilize yourself. When this happens your body will essentially use inappropriate stabilization patterns and rely on stiffness to get through different movements. For example, the hamstrings will seemingly become tight when the core lacks the stability to control the pelvis. In the presence of weakness, the body will develop increased muscle tone that is observed as tightness simply to survive. Targeting the tightness alone without creating stability somewhere else in the body is a short term gain at best.
Whenever I start a program with a new client we always start with building a proper foundation. We have to free the body of mobility limitations, lack of stability and bad posture before we start any type of strength training. Bad posture does not cause pain; most people with bad posture don’t exercise at all. But if you decide to start an exercise program and start putting a whole lot of fitness on top of that bad posture it will be just a matter of time before we have pain. Developing mobile joints and improving the integrity of your muscle to work in certain contractions that it has long forgotten are pivotal because the body will never adapt and make change when you put a lot of fitness on a body that doesn’t move very well. Everything that we do in life including the gym is a learning process and the fact is we are not learning anything when we use weight machines to isolate muscles. Our bodies are designed for whole body movements with the focus on protecting our joint structure and not rotating from our lumbar spine instead getting power from our hips where it should come from. We have to get your body to work as a unit, without relying on individual muscles. If you stimulate a pattern as opposed to an individual muscle you can then develop more balance, mobility and strength which will lead to improved range of motion and better function in day to day activites.