Wednesday, May 29th is the 20th anniversary of the National Senior Health and Fitness day. It is the largest nationally recognized fitness-oriented promotional event for the older population and prompts our wiser generation to ‘reach higher’ in terms of fitness and over-all flexibility on this day and every day. Over 1000 locations nation wide will offer special fitness activities for seniors, including community centers, health clubs, retirement centers, churches, hospitals and city parks. What can National Senior Health and Fitness day mean for you?
Even if you are not considered a ‘senior’ perhaps it is a great day to notice the older people in your community and give a hand. Maybe go for a walk with a wiser neighbor or cook them a healthy meal. It is as good of an excuse as you are going to get to connect with those you may normally pass by. Maybe call your grandparents and do some deep-breathing together over the phone!
If you are in the ‘senior’ population, and don’t feel like attending a local event on your behalf, there are some excellent fitness activities you can do at home, on this day and every day. It’s never too late to get fit or to stay fit. Some of the simplest exercises can go a long way to help your body stay healthy and flexible.
Try these 10 simple joint-strengthening steps for enhanced mobility:
1- Sit upright on a comfortable chair (or on the floor if you are able) – barefoot or in socks.
2- Starting with your toes, scrunch all of them inward with an exhale breath; now inhale as you spread the toes far apart. Repeat for 7-10 breaths.
3- Now begin to flex the feet back toward the face on the inhale, and point the toes on the exhale. Bring all of your attention and awareness into the feet so that all of your energy is there. Repeat 7-10 times.
4- To the ankles next. With feet spread hip-width distance apart, rotate the ankles in the same direction, inhaling as you circle half-way and exhaling the rest of the movement back to the top. Make sure the legs are not moving too, isolate the rotation into only the ankles. Repeat with the breath closely tied the the body movement. Repeating 5 time and then reverse in the opposite direction. After 5 rounds, try moving now as a mirror image, so the feet move away from each other on the inhale, then toward one another on the exhale breath.
5- Interlace fingers under the right knee. Pick the knee up slightly off the floor or the chair and bend the knee, then straighten with the breath. As you bend, squeeze the knee slightly up toward the chest, and as you straighten, extend the leg out. Repeat 7-10 times then move to the left side.
6- Moving now to the upper body – extend the arms out in front of you palms lifted, fingers fanned out in all directions. Inhale. Exhale and tighten the fists, keeping the arms straight. Repeat 7 times.
7- On the inhale, now lift the fingers toward the ceiling, on the exhale drop fingers toward the floor, working the flexibility of the wrists – up and down. Continue the stretch. Inhale up, exhale down.
8- Now wrist circles, just as we did with the ankles. Arms still parallel with the floor, loosely close the fists and rotate the wrists as if you were balancing a coin on the upper forearm and you don’t want to drop it. Inhale with the upper half of the circle, exhale with the lower half. Repeat 7 times and then reverse directions.
9- The neck and shoulders are the final focal points. Start by squeezing the shoulders up to the ears when you bring the breath in, and drop the shoulders as the air leaves the body. Repeat several times. Move awareness in to the neck now and drop the chin to the chest on the exhale, keeping the back straight and upright. Feel the compression in the throat. On the inhale, slowly raise the chin up to the ceiling as if you were going to push a button on the ceiling with your chin. After several repeats, move the chin now side to side with each breath. Allow the chin to move slowly, sweeping across the front of the body from shoulder to shoulder. Finally, inhale back to center and exhale, let the head fall gently off to the right shoulder. Allow the stretch for 10 seconds or so. Then inhale back to the top, exhale down to the right side. Breathing through the sensations. Do this several rounds. End with nice and easy neck rotations in both directions.
10 – Relax the body and sit with the eyes closed. Simply notice your breath. Bring attention to all the parts of the body that have been moved and recognize any changes you feel in those parts. Follow the breath in and out without judgment or alteration. Just be with the way you feel now, after the practice, for several minutes. Create an intention in your mind for you day, or your life – such as “I am healthy, flexible and take good care of my body.”
Senior Health and Fitness day prompts our older and wiser generation to reach higher and embody the strength of their years. On this day or any day of the year, anyone can use these simple tricks to increase energy, move blood flow and reduce stress, helping the body feel increasingly vital, active and alive.
Many of these practices can be seen on the following video called the Pawanmuktasana Series.
Written by: Stasia Bliss