Masterpiece Living at Home: Move More with 6 Simple Exercises

Written by Jenny Smiechowski, staff writer for The Birches

It’s no secret that being sedentary is bad for your health. Countless studies show that not getting enough exercise puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and more.

That’s why, during the month of May, residents and team members at The Birches focused on moving more for better health through the “Movement Matters” campaign. The “Movement Matters” campaign is a month-long campaign created by the successful aging organization Masterpiece Living that encourages you to move more and move with purpose.

So, how can you make movement matter more in your life?

Well, here at The Birches we have healthy habits we practice regularly to stay active and healthy during “Movement Matters” and the rest of the year. One of the healthy habits that keeps us moving all year long is daily visits to our exercise stations.

In each of our assisted living hallways, we have six exercise stations. These stations provide a picture and description of a different exercise. Residents and team members are encouraged to visit these stations so they can squeeze in more movement daily.

Do these stations really work when it comes to staying active, fit and healthy?

They absolutely do. Just ask Beth Junco.

“When I moved to The Birches, I ate like a fool, and I gained 30 pounds,” said Beth.

Once Beth realized how much weight she’d put on, she took action. She saw The Birches’ personal trainer for a while, but eventually decided to lead her own fitness efforts by doing the walking fitness stations.

Beth does each station twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. She’s been doing it for a little more than a month, and her diligence has already paid off. She’s down 13 pounds. She also feels more energetic, mobile and has better circulation.

Can doing these six exercises daily help you as much as they helped Beth? It’s worth a shot. Here are the six exercises we include in our assisted living exercise stations:

1. Mini Squats

The first exercise keeps your thighs strong, so you can stand up and get out of a chair with ease. It also increases flexibility in your hips so you can step higher, which keeps you from stumbling. To practice mini squats, hold on to something like a chair or table for support. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and facing forward. Slowly squat down like you’re sitting in a chair. Don’t squat any deeper than 90 degrees. Repeat at least five times.

2. Standing Hip Abduction

The second exercise makes your hip abductors (muscles on the side of your hips) more flexible and strong. By working on your hip abductors, you also increase your core strength, improve your balance and support your lower back health. To practice standing hip abduction, stand on one leg with your other leg raised slightly off the ground. Lift your raised leg slowly up to the side and a little bit backwards. You can hold on to a chair, table, countertop or whatever’s available for more stability. Do at least five repetitions on each leg.

3. Standing Hip Extension

The third exercise strengthens the muscles in your hips and glutes, which keeps you walking well and makes climbing stairs a breeze. To do a standing hip extension, face something you can hold on to like a countertop, table or chair. Tighten your stomach muscles, then slowly extend your leg behind you. Do at least five repetitions on each leg.

4. Shoulder Squeeze

This exercise helps you maintain good posture. It also reduces neck and back pain, improves breathing, relieves stress, enhances your mood, burns calories and protects you from injury. To perform a shoulder squeeze, hold your arms at your side and squeeze your shoulders together for five to ten seconds. Do at least five repetitions.

5. Heel/Toe Raise

The fifth exercise strengthens your calf muscles and supports your ankles. This improves your balance and makes it easier to step up and down on curbs and stairs. Stand with your feet flat on the ground, then alternate between raising your heels off the ground and raising your toes off the ground. You can do each foot separately or do both feet at the same time. You can also hold on to something for support. Practice at least five times on each foot.

6. March-in-Place

The last exercise gives you a small dose of cardio. It strengthens you heart, while supporting your immune system and respiratory system. It also improves your balance and strengthens your core. Stand straight and lift one leg at a time as you move the opposite arm, like you’re marching or powerwalking in place. If you need help with balance and stability you can keep your arms still and hold on to something like a chair or table. Do at least five reps on each leg.

Hopefully, these six simple exercises will motivate you to move more, because a little bit of movement goes a long way when it comes to staying healthy and mobile. Many of our residents our living proof of that…including Beth Junco. Use Beth and other active people in your life as inspiration to make movement matter more this month…and every month!

Masterpiece Living at Home” is a blog series that helps you stay engaged socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually, so you can age healthfully and successfully. Click “follow” at the top of this post to subscribe to our blog and receive more helpful successful aging tips.