Exercise Difficulty: Misconception vs Reality
In the last few months, I have increasingly heard the comments “I can’t do that… /old people can’t do that”, and avoidance of certain activities because of fear. Furthermore, I have noticed the increasing misconception that the very definition of exercise is to train like a bodybuilder, cross fitter or triathlete. The concept of progression seems to be largely unknown, despite it being the very thing that every one of us embarking on our own personal exercise journey, must go through to improve.
No one starts at point B, all must begin at A and work their way to B and elite athletes are no different.
Progression means that over a course of time, an exercise is made more difficult using a variety of different methods. This promotes continual adaptation to reap the benefits (and oh are there many!). An increasing difficulty may mean increasing the number of times you perform the exercise (reps), or the number of rounds (sets), by adding or increasing weight, varying the position of the body, reducing the base of support, and the list goes on.
It means that when we start exercising, perhaps we are only performing a sit to stand on a chair while holding on to something… gradually, over time and with the right methods, we are lunging or stepping up onto a step (something we thought was unheard of at the beginning of our journey). Of course, this is just an example. However, to spread the misconception that an elderly person cannot perform an exercise simply because they are “old” means harbouring fear, fostering sedentary behaviour and avoiding activities that could wholeheartedly improve quality of life and possibly even ward disease!
Exercise Example: The Step Up
Let’s use the old step up as an example. The attached image looks hard right? Well it should, because it’s a step up PROGRESSION! It is not an exercise a beginner would attempt skilfully, however, can easily be broken back down into a more manageable movement.
There are a myriad of benefits for the humble step up (just to name a few):
- Slow age-related muscle loss and even build muscle tissue
- Increase leg strength which in turn reduces falls risk
- Improve balance
- Increase bone mineral density and reduce fracture risk
- Improve body composition by reducing increases in fat mass and increasing fat-free mass
- Improve glucose tolerance
Add a ball catch:
- A cognitive task, slow the decline in cognitive processing
- Improve reaction time
- Hand-eye coordination
Add a time component:
- Improve metabolic rate
- Improved ability of the muscle to extract oxygen
- Improved cardiac filling
- Prevent or slow arterial stiffening
It is really important to see an exercise physiologist who can progress you appropriately and take into consideration any other existing injuries and or illnesses you may have.
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