Fit for life: Advice for elderly athletics

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Fitness professional Yasmine Hassan on physical activity for seniors

Saudi SFA Ambassador and official Baytak Nadeek trainer, Yasmine Hassan, has developed training routines for elderly people… perfecting her theories on a daily basis alongside her parents! In this article, you’ll find a case study of Mr. and Mrs. Hassan’s fitness routines and gains, and a Q&A segment on how you too can become fit for life!

Case study: Mr. and Mrs. Hassan

The training schedule for Mrs. Hassan is three times weekly while Mr. Hassan is at twice weekly, and both supplement with walks on non-training days. They have seen major improvements across both physical and mental aspects after training consistently, closely guided by Yasmine with tailored and safe programs.

Mrs. Hassan confirmed that she will never abandon her fitness routine having seen multiple benefits: “I feel much younger and more self-confident, I advise all mothers to start even if they feel it’s very hard. Once they start and feel the difference, there’s no turning back!”

Mr. Hassan affirms that there is nothing more rewarding: “I feel good! I feel strong and light on my feet like a feather! My knee and back don’t bother me anymore, and I wake up looking forward to my day and going to the jobsite,” he said, remarking on his regular construction site visits as an engineer in Saudi.

(See more on Mr. and Mrs, Hassan’s training routine and results at the bottom of this article.)

Q&A with Yasmine Hassan

  1. What are some of the exercises in specific that you recommend for elderly people?
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises throughout the day – Supine – Seated
  • Mobility exercises for joint health and stiffness: kneeling stretch for tight hip flexors, quadruped rocking for lower back pain. Both conditions are caused by prolonged sitting
  • Core exercises for bracing and spine stability: Bird Dog (shown below) and Glute Bridge

 2. Do you deem any specific exercises essential?

  • Curl up: A very safe exercise as it requires minimum movement and load on the spine- anterior abdominal muscles
  • Bird-dog: This teaches core stability and anti-rotation of the spine and enhances core muscles
  • Hip Hinge: It teaches correct bending mechanics and targets hamstrings, core and spine alignment as well as functional movement
  • Squat to chair: It teaches how to safely get in and out of a chair or a couch, and targets quadriceps muscles in a functional way

3. What advice do you have for a senior citizen who wants to begin working out?

“Focus on basic joint mobility daily to maintain joint health; this is important especially upon waking up when we are most stiff. Light swimming is a gentle way to get active without joint stress. Keep exercises simple and focus on big functional movements that we use in our everyday life. Train two to three times per week and pay attention to what your body is telling you and there’s no need for lots of equipment! Modified body weight works best for the elderly population. For significant improvement, 20 minutes will go a long way. It is worth mentioning that stretching alone is not enough, strength training must be incorporated.”

4. What are healthy habits you would recommend to elderly people to incorporate into their daily lives beyond exercise?

“Elderly people should approach hydration according to body weight: half their body weight in ounces. Focus on daily sleep cycles are it is very important: go to bed and wake up the same time every day to maintain circadian rhythms. Limit your blue light exposure for brain health; put away screens and phones. Adopt colorful eating by aiming for 10 shades of fruits and vegetables per day! Finally, opt for mindful eating by chewing your food well to improve digestion and gut health.”

5. How can a person know when to gradually increase intensity and frequency?

“Rate of Perceived Energy (RPE) is one way; by getting in touch with your body and feeling when something is too much or doesn’t feel right. How efficiently you feel that you’ve recovered – if you are too sore or feel broken for days it’s a sign you need to back off. Tracking results of training sessions is also a great way to measure progress and identify areas of weakness that may need more time before adding more.”

6. Any muscle recovery tips?

“For muscles to recover optimally, we must look at everything we are doing outside of the training session. What we eat plays a huge role in how well our bodies recover along with sleep, hydration, and stress management. Walking in sunshine is a great recovery routine that I try to incorporate with my parents. Gentle walks around the block leave them feeling great and energized. Mobility, dynamic stretches, is a great way to warmup or incorporate into a recovery activity along with foam rolling.”

The background on the case study

Yasmine, having worked closely with her parents on their respective physical fitness journeys, said her initial focus on the senior citizen demographic stemmed from concern that her parents were sedentary. After some research within her immediate circle, she found that many others were in the same situation, and this motivated her to act. She has been training her mother for five months, and her father as of six weeks.

“The biggest improvement was in their mood, interaction and communication with one another. They were both smiling more frequently and socialized more with their friends and family,” she said. Mental benefits she has noted in her parents include “a sense of healthy competition between both of them especially regarding health and fitness related topics.”

The physical plusses seem almost too good to be true: “Physically they have more energy throughout the day. They go to bed earlier, and they’ve become more active and playful with their grandchildren. Best of all is that they experience less body aches and joint pain.”

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Hassan on their wellness wins! We’ll be watching to see you both go from strength to strength.

Healthy Living is a frequently updated content section brought to you by the Saudi Sports for All Federation. In the spirit of supporting our #HealthyActiveCommunity, we’re sharing tips around wellness, physical activity and more!

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