“The stereotype of older people is changing. The stereotype, where your life is done at 65, is changing. There’s a whole new lifespan and integrity around being an older person and I want to be a front-runner in that.”
New York City actor/acting teacher/director/playwright Grace Kiley is our “Roll Model” this week. Kiley is on the young end of the senior category–and committed to staying flexible and fit for years to come.
“I’ve seen some people who are quite elderly and have this beautiful straight posture and it’s so impressive,” says Kiley. “I want to be one of those people. I want to stay elegant, upright, and looking up, not looking down at the sidewalk.”
Posture for Happiness and Independence
For Kiley, posture and balance are imperative for her health, independence, and happiness.
“When I’m upright I bring confidence to my work as a teacher and as an actor,” shares Kiley. “To take command of both big theatres and small intimate groups, I need to stay centered in my core, with my shoulders and head upright. My posture determines the energy I bring to my work.”
“There are also the daily tasks of carrying bags of props and books, plus climbing stairs around New York City and riding the subway,” she continues.
Kiley will often spend weeks traveling to teach or perform. “I’m an independent person and I need to be able to continue living independently because I find great joy in that.”
Below you will find Kiley demonstrating a practice of balance and posture exercises for seniors designed by Tune Up Fitness® instructor Katie Alba.
Balance Exercise Sequence for Seniors
Katie alba designed this sequence to enhance balance and poise for seniors.
“The number one concern I hear about working as a wellness director in an independent living facility is the fear of falling,” shares Alba. “There are many reasons falling occurs including changes in hearing and vision which happen naturally as we age. According to the CDC one in four adults, age 65 and older, fall each year.”
This sequence will help enhance strength, flexibility, and neuromuscular control with the support of the chair to make it a bit more senior-friendly.
1. Seated Poise
This seated pose will provide a great base to start and subtly strengthen the postural muscles along your spine.
- Sit upright in a chair with your feet evenly on the ground.
- Balance your weight symmetrically over your ischial tuberosities (sometimes called “sit bones”).
- Hang your arms down by your sides.
- Lengthen your spine, imagining a straight line running from the base of the pelvis up through the crown of your head.
- Maintain your posture and take 20 long, full breaths.
2. Mid-Back Massage
This exercise, using a Coregeous® sponge ball, will loosen up tight muscles along the spine, and “wake up” those posture muscles so they can hold you upright.
- Place a Coregeous® sponge ball, partially deflated, between the back of a chair and your lower ribcage.
- Reach your arms out to the sides, palms up (to open the chest and shoulders).
- Move your body right to left so that the therapy ball massages side-to-side across your back.
- Continue for approximately 2-3 minutes, or until you feel warmth, release, and ease in your back.
3. Seated Foot Self-Massage
“Another reason we lose balance is muscle deterioration,” warns Katie Alba. “Because the body is a ‘use it or lose it’ mechanism, enjoying the slower, less active lifestyle of the golden years can speed up that degeneration process.”
Alba continues, “While all this is a serious and scary subject there are things to help us stay strong and agile as we age.”
Massaging the soles of the feet on the original sized Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls is an effective way to stimulate the sensors on your feet to become more balanced and agile.
- Sit upright on a chair, with a therapy ball under each foot.
- Roll your feet forward and backward, dipping your toes, then your heels to the floor.
- Continue for 2 minutes, until a tingly warm feeling spreads under the soles of your feet.
4. Outer Hip Strengthener
Maintaining strong, flexible muscles around your hips is vital to prevent falls, or reduce the injury caused by falls.
According to Katie Alba, “One in five falls causes serious injury like a head injury or broken bones. More than 40% of individuals hospitalized from hip fractures do not return home and are not capable of living independently again.”
The Outer Hip Strengthener is a great exercise for flexibility, strength and motor control around the hip joints.
- Stand with hands braced on a chair or other surface while keeping the spine long and head lifted.
- Place feet parallel.
- Lift one foot an inch off of the floor and reach it straight out to the side without changing the parallel orientation of your feet.
- Maintain a neutral spine and a strong torso.
- Replace foot and repeat 10x.
- Do the other side.
5. Head Ramping
One of the first indicators that you are headed toward postural issues, is your head gets stuck in a forward-reaching position. The strain this puts on the upper back and shoulders can be immense, and cause the whole upper body to gradually collapse.
This is a simple, yet challenging exercise to help train you to “keep your head on your shoulders.”
- Sit or stand upright with your head level over the spine.
- Keeping your eyes fixed on the same point straight ahead, reach your head forward an inch or two.
- Pull your head straight back, keeping your eyes level.
- Repeat 10-20 times.
6. Neck Reset With a Block
To continue training the muscles of the upper back and neck to keep you upright, add a block behind the head. In Tune Up Fitness® we call this Blockhead.
- Stand or sit upright, with the spine in long, neutral curves.
- Hold a block behind your head.
- Lightly press the back of the head into the block (about 20% effort).
- To enhance this exercise, do the head ramping with the block. (see images below).
- Take the block away and notice if it feels easier to “keep your head on your shoulders.”
7. Standing Poise
To finish this balance exercises for seniors routine, check in with your posture once more.
- Stand upright with fingertips lightly touching a chair
- Parallel foot position just under hips
- “Joint stack” your hips over your heels, your shoulders over your hips, your ears over your shoulders.
- Gaze straight ahead at the horizon.
- Envision your bright future!
Find more information about instructor Katie Alba HERE.
Author and images: Ariel Kiley. (Yes, Grace is my mother and with her incredible spirit and practice, she seems to get younger every year!)
Related Article: Myofascial Self-Massage: Less is More
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