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Senior Safety Tips for Isometric Exercise Routines
Isometric exercises can be done by almost anyone, anywhere; even those seniors who have limited mobility. Even so, there are still some risks involved and seniors should take precautions when engaging in this type of activity.
There are two types of isometric exercise. One utilizes the body's own muscles to exert force on a fixed object, such as a wall. The other places a muscle in a contracted position for a period of time. A good example is to have a seat in a chair, extend your legs one at a time and hold the position for 3-6 seconds. While this type of exercise will not increase muscle mass as quickly as weight-bearing exercises, it will serve to prevent muscle and bone loss and increase strength.
Unlike aerobic exercise, which can cause joint damage through repetitive high-impact motion, isometric exercises allow the joint to remain static during the contraction of the muscle. For this reason, isometric exercises are considered low-impact. Even so, there are still some risks involved and seniors should take precautions when engaging in this type of activity.
Before beginning any new program, always check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise. You'll find this warning at the beginning of every exercise plan and may be tempted to ignore it. However, it is especially important for seniors to consult a physician before adding isometric exercises to a workout routine. These exercises tend to cause spikes in blood pressure that can be dangerous to some seniors already suffering from high blood pressure.
With isometric exercises there is a natural tendency to hold one's breath while tensing the muscle. This can also cause an unsafe spike in blood pressure and should be avoided.
Always wear loose clothing when exercising. Tight clothing or clothing with elastic bands at the legs or arms can restrict blood flow when the muscle is contracted.
Drink plenty of water before and after exercising. All exercise, including isometric exercises, deplete the body of fluids, which can cause cramping.
Some armchair exercises require you to place your hands on the arms of the chair and raise your body upwards. If you are attempting this type of exercise, make sure that your chair is on a non-slip surface such as a thick carpet. If you are using a wheelchair, be sure the wheels are in the locked position.
Similarly, if you are using an object to push against for resistance, be sure that the object is in a permanent fixed position and will not give way when you apply your body weight. A good object to use is a wall or door frame.
Do not engage in isometric or any type of exercise if you are not feeling well.
Even with isometric exercise, it is important to warm up before engaging in longer holds. Take a few minutes to do light stretches before starting your routine. The same applies to cooling down after your routine.
Isometric exercises may cause some minor soreness as the muscle breaks down and rebuilds. This will be more evident in the beginning of your new routine.
Under no circumstances should these exercises cause pain. If you are feeling pain in your arms, legs, or chest, discontinue the exercise and consult your physician.
Listen to your body. If your become excessively tired, short of breath, or feel tightness in your chest, immediately stop exercising and ask for help.
Bryant Stamford, "Isometric exercise can help seniors maintain strength", Deseret News (Salt Lake City)