A lot is made about sports, athletics, strength training, and general fitness for the under-40 crowd. And by the time people hit 65, the mainstream idea of fitness involves “silver sneakers” and a fitness class with very light weights.
Meanwhile, the older we get, the harder we find it to do the easy stuff, like get out of a chair, or take a flight of stairs.
If you or someone you know is taking stairs slower, or finds themselves pushing off a table to get up after dinner, this is for you.
If you wake up in the middle of the night with leg pain or if your knees are getting weaker. This is for you. If you or someone you know is considering knee replacements, this is for you.
And, really, if you’re a healthy 18 year old, this information is still for you.
Think about it this way. There are some truisms that we know are true, whether we like it or not. A big one is “eat right and exercise” to lose weight. Everybody has tried the pill, potion, or gimmick, but we all concede that “eat right and exercise” is a guaranteed way to do it.
Similarly, what I’m about to share with you is foundational truth. Nobody really doubts the information you’re about to read.
BUT, there’s not a lot of money in it either. There are no pills, potions, or gimmicks to make this work. What you’re about to learn is as true as “eat right and exercise”. Heck, more to the point, let’s talk about exercise.
As we covered earlier, exercise for a senior citizen… and I mean 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, is an ever decreasing work load for most people. We stop asking the elderly to do manual tasks. We let them sit down longer (because they need to), are happy to give them a wheelchair (because they need it), and don’t see anything wrong with them buzzing through the supermarket in a motorized scooter.
Meanwhile, how well somebody gets out of a chair is a great 5 year indicator of mortality. Once it’s impossible, the five year clock is running. And that might be generous.
It’s safe to say that protecting the ability to get out of a chair, at a bare minimum, is one of the keys to getting old without getting frail.
Old doesn’t have to mean weak. But for the vast majority of us, it does or it will. Why? Because we allow it to happen.
But does it have to be this way? Are seniors destined to be increasingly delicate on their feet? At some advanced stage of life, it’s possible. But by default? No way.
To have a healthy body that’s capable of standing up to the ravages of time requires that the body be strong. It requires that it be capable of functional ranges of movement. And it requires a healthy, practiced, central nervous system to keep the brain and muscles on the same page.
What can we do to decrease the rate of descent on the backside of life’s mountain? More to the point, what should we do?
In a word: squats.
Squats have a lot going for it.
- It’s a totally natural position. Much of what we do to generate power with our legs comes out of a squatting position. When done with proper form, whether with or without weights, it is a completely safe movement pattern.
- It’s the single most effective exercise one can do. It works over 230 muscles at one in a functional manner. That means the work done by squatting translates into what you’re doing in your daily life. That’s more than 1/3rd of you body trained every time you do it.
- It’s the only exercise that completely works the ‘lower posterior chain’, a fancy term that means all the muscles of the legs and butt. These are the muscles that you use to stand up, sit down, walk, climb steps, run, jump, etc.
- It’s a hip movement, not a knee movement. As long as you can sit down in a chair without pain, there’s a place for you to start from where you can get better over time.
- It will improve your cardiovascular health.
- By incorporating linear progression techniques and forcing the body to adapt to lifting heavier weight over time, you force your body to create hormonal growth factors that fight cellular degeneration and death.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of time in the gym to get strong.
- Squatting will change your body composition. You’ll look better and be healthier.
If these attributes were available in a pill, potion, or gimmick, you’d already have your credit card out. But the news is even better than that. The most you’ll ever need in order to do squats is access to a squat rack. And squat racks can be found at almost all gyms that aren’t called “Planet Fitness”.
Squatting regularly will help you get gain muscle and will address alignment issues of the ankles, knees, and hips.
Now that we’ve introduced you to the concept of squats, in the next post we’ll talk about how to start doing them, even if you’ve gotten to the point to where getting up out of a chair is a challenge.