By Greg Carannante
Personal trainer Chris Mazzola demonstrates three simple exercises that almost anyone can do at home. He emphasizes that they are only a starting point, and that you must progress beyond them to achieve the strength needed to maintain balance and help avoid falls. For each, repeat the motion until you reach a semi-fatigue state and are a little out of breath. Don’t overdo it.
Chair Squat: A functional exercise you can do in daily activity. Use a chair with armrests. The key is leverage; the object is to support your body in the act of sitting and avoid plopping straight back down. It’s a good workout to build legs, core muscles – and self-esteem.
Stand with back to the seat. Lean forward, bending body at the waist, nose over toes, and sit. Then do the reverse to stand. Support yourself with the armrests until you have the strength to do it on your own.
Bridge: This strengthens abdomen and lower back. Use a couch, or a chair against a wall so it doesn’t tip. Sit toward the front of the seat. Lean back so upper shoulder blades touch the seatback. Raise one leg, bent at the knee, two or three inches off the floor and hold for a few seconds. If you feel stress in stomach and back, continue alternating one leg at a time. If and when you don’t feel the stress, then try elevating both legs at once.
As reps get easier, straighten and extend legs. Also, keep shoulders off the seatback, so that only buttocks are touching the seat. Rest often, progress slowly.
Modified Pushup: This strengthens upper body and arms. Use a kitchen or bathroom counter or desk – not a table that can slide out from under you. Place palms flat on the surface, if necessary a little off the front edge so hands don’t slide. Move feet back a bit to start. Lift heels slightly and, holding body straight like a plank, lean forward a short distance with arms supporting you and elbows bent out and back. Then push back up. Adjust hand position for comfort. Be sure to breathe steadily.
If the exercise is too strenuous, limit the leaning distance. As your strength improves, gradually progress to the ultimate pushup by moving feet a little farther back to increase the angle, and lean all the way down so that your abdomen is almost touching the edge of the counter.