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Healthy ageing from the ground up


Simple exercises can decrease your risk of dangerous falls and enhance your moods, self-esteem and confidence

Paul O'Brien

It’s a sad inditement on the modern lifestyle that we are constantly telling our kids to ‘move more’. When I was a kid, I never heard these words from my parents, teachers or anyone else for that matter. Movement, through play, was as natural as eating or sleeping.
Back then, a lack of mobility was a subject related to older people. It seems this age group has been passed over in modern times, such is our concern and focus on the younger generation and the issues of early onset diabetes, obesity and others that beset them. However, the issue of declining mobility in older adults has not gone away. On the contrary, it’s a conversation that needs to be highlighted once more.
As we age, movement efficiency decreases. From our late 20s and early 30s we begin to experience muscle strength decline (dynapenia), a cumulative loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) in each decade from our 30s onwards, and decreased levels of lean muscle mass including bone density and connective tissue loss. These factors make movements that were once second nature anything but.
The modern menace
Coupled with this physical deterioration, we experience a decrease in co-ordination, balance and other motor skills because of inefficient movement and through lack of use. Our modern reliance upon the conveniences of technology (think remote controls instead of walking over to the TV to change channel etc) compound the issue further. It seems ironic that the very technology that was designed to make life easier has, in some vital respects, decreased the quality of life as we age. In fact, the ‘techno-crutch’ is the villain of the piece, hidden in plain sight in our everyday activities.
Ground-up movement
For older adults the solution is also hidden in plain sight. Spend an afternoon observing your grandchildren playing and you’ll discover a range of exercises that can help you recapture that youthful vigour. Ground to standing movements can help improve performance of daily activities, increase muscle mass and bone density, improve balance and coordination and help your heart. They can also help relieve the symptoms of inflammatory conditions, such as fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.
A professional trainer can prescribe a range of exercises for you to do in the comfort of your own home. Here are some easy exercises to get you started. Perform these once daily, trying to complete one to two sets of 5-10 repeats of each exercise.

Sit-to-stands: Sit on the floor (or a chair) and maintaining a straight spine and pushing your feet into the floor, stand as tall as you can with good posture. Slowly return to the floor or chair and repeat. You can use a table to support you if required.

Split kneel to stand: Begin in a split-stance kneeling position with one knee on the floor and the other leg forward with foot on the ground. Push the sole of your front foot into the floor and at the same time push forward from your back leg until you are standing. Try to maintain a straight spine as you ascend. Slowly return to the split kneeling stance and repeat on the other side.

Supine lying to sit: Lie on your back with your arms by your side. Slowly come up onto your elbows one at a time. Then come up onto your hands, bend your knees towards your chest. Either support your weight on your hands or try hugging your knees. Return to lying and repeat.

These exercises will also help decrease your risk of dangerous falls and enhance your moods, self-esteem and confidence. The bottom line is quality of life, from the ground up.

In The Mayo News published on September 11, physiotherapist Andrew O’Brien’s picture byline was inadvertently placed with an article that was written by fitness instructor and life coach Paul O’Brien (‘Are you a house built on sand’, available on The Mayo News apologises to both contributors, and to readers for any confusion caused by this misattribution.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or

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