Keeping physically fit in old age – physiotherapist Kai König from Immenstadt explains how to achieve this goal and what to be aware of.
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The hallway is no longer so slippery. It was better to get up. Now the back, knees and hips also pinch, while the trouser legs shake around the emaciated thighs and lower legs. And recently there have been ads for stair lifts in the mail account. “Age-related muscle atrophy is coming slowly but steadily,” says Kai König. People already reach their maximum muscle mass between 20 and 30 years. “From the age of 50, we lose about one to two percent of it a year. When you’re 70, 30 percent of your muscles are gone. “
However, this does not have to be the case, emphasizes the leader of a physiotherapeutic practice in Immenstadt. Because targeted exercise strengthens muscles and bones and leads to an increase in overall well-being, the body remains robust, and injuries and accidents are also easier to cope with for a strengthened body. Because a trained body not only reduces the likelihood of falling, but also regenerates more easily.
With targeted exercises, you can also prevent osteoporosis (bone loss), says König. The disease mainly affects postmenopausal women. For strength training, among other things, stimulates the building of new bone mass and prevents age-related muscle atrophy, which in medical jargon is called sarcopenia, König explains. Up to 50 percent of people over the age of 80 suffer from it. “Because of the muscle loss, many things get harder and harder for us, so we are often less and less active. The risk of falling also increases, ”warns König. As a result, many seniors would become immobile and would have to give up their independence.
The good news: It’s never too late to take countermeasures. “Muscles can be trained at any age,” says the 60-year-old physiotherapist. At the age of 90 you do not walk as much as at the age of 50, but noticeable muscle growth is possible. Depending on physical fitness, strength training can take place under supervision in a physiotherapy practice, in the gym or at home. It does not mean pumping with flexible barbells in the gym, but targeted, relaxed, orthopedically thought-out exercises. It takes a young person about four weeks for the muscle to increase volume noticeably. “For people over 50, it takes six to eight weeks,” König says.
In the beginning, five to six exercises are sufficient as a basis. “You can vary and expand on them.” It is important that the exercises are fun and fit into everyday life. König advises meeting with friends two to three times a week for 30 minutes to build muscle together.
You do not need expensive training equipment for this. Simple rubber bands (thera bands) would suffice. König wraps the ends of a ribbon around his hands, stands on it with his left foot, throws himself out and pulls the ribbon twelve times with his arms straight up. Then he pauses and repeats the exercises twice more. “You can easily do that at home,” says the Immenstadt physiotherapist. (Also read: Eight tips for sporting comeback after baby)
If you start strength training, you should choose a low resistance level in the beginning to protect your joints. Even a table or chair is enough to strengthen the muscles with targeted exercises. “Even push-ups and squats are effective if performed correctly,” König adds. He advises beginners to make a training plan with the help of a physiotherapist, get them to show them the exercises and then record them with their mobile phone so that they can be implemented properly at home. If you prefer to go to the gym, you should have a professional show you which exercises are best for individual therapy.
To achieve noticeable success, it is important – whether it is at home with an elastic band or in the studio with exercises on equipment – to determine the maximum strength and with 70 to 80 percent of it to do two to three repetitions slowly with short breaks in between . “And breathe out when you’re stressed and avoid forced breathing.” The muscle needs a stimulus to grow, the physiotherapist explains. The load should therefore increase slowly over the next few weeks and months.
And which parts of the body are really weak? The back of the thighs is used far too rarely, as are the gluteus maximus, the abdominal and core muscles and those along the spine, ”says König.
Above all, the loss of strength in the legs becomes a problem. If you do not have enough strength there, try to compensate with your back. It can be very painful, because then the intervertebral discs report ”.
Before you start strength training, however, you should have your GP check your fitness level to avoid health risks. Then it is time to train regularly, König emphasizes. At the latest after a few weeks, you can smile over the announcement of stair lifts in your mail account.
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