Health & Fitness

Exercises to avoid looking like an old-timer

Nobody wants to be thought of as old. But even people in their 40s may be making moves that brand them as older than their years.

These moves include picking up something from the floor, going up and down stairs or sitting down on a couch or easy chair. If you move awkwardly, or huff and puff when doing any of these things, here are a few simple exercises that can easily be done at home and will have you moving more youthfully in no time.

The old-age way of picking up something from the floor is to bend down in little jerks, finger-fumbling for whatever it is, then gasping an “oof” or two as you slowly stand upright again. The young-age way of doing the same thing is to quickly, with agility, bend and precisely grab the object from the floor, then easily stand up again.

The way to do this like a young-ager is to simply practice, using good form. Use a sheet of paper to practice, since it will be flat to the floor and thus harder to pick up. But start first with an intermediate position, putting the paper on a low stool to get your back, hips and thighs accustomed to the movement.

Start by bending your knees as if you are stooping. Then bend over from the hips, where your legs meet your torso. That will prevent the entire weight of your upper body from resting on just a few vertebrae in your lower back. As you bend your upper body over, don’t curve your spine. Keep it straight. Reach for the paper with a precise movement and pick it up. Once you have practiced this movement enough so that it’s easy, begin picking up the piece of paper from the floor. It takes repetitive practice, several times a week, to maintain enough agility to make this movement with little to no effort.

Going up and down stairs can be a huffer-and-puffer for those who aren’t in shape to hoist their full body weight from one leg to the other. Having to grab a railing for support like it’s a life preserver will make you look older. By practicing climbing up and down stairs without holding on to anything, your balance as well as your strength will improve.

As always, it’s all about practice. Start by finding a shallow, not steep, set of stairs. If it’s only four or five stairs, that’s fine. Pay attention to how you shift your weight as you go up. Your feet need to be flexible. Bend your back foot to stand on the ball and toes of that foot, while shifting your weight to the upper leg. Never walk up a set of stairs flat footed.

When walking down the stairs, you may wish to hover you hand over the railing, but hover the other hand at the same height to help maintain balance. Keep your body centered; don’t shift your weight from side to side with each step.

Sitting down or getting up out of a soft seat without having to push yourself up or hold on when you sit down requires strong thighs and glutes (the buttocks). To strengthen these large muscles, practice doing squats while holding on to the sturdy arm of a couch or chair. With hands evenly spaced in front of you, squat down by bending at the knees and ankles, keeping the back straight. You may have to lift your heels as you squat, but try to let your body do the work; don’t support yourself on the seat arm. As you practice, you’ll eventually be able to make this movement without needing the support. Your muscles will become strong enough to sit down in a chair without collapsing into it, and to rise up without having to use your hands to push yourself up.

Building the muscles by practicing these simple moves will keep you moving a lot younger throughout your entire life.