Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The 86 year old gymnast

Johanna Quaas is an active gymnast from Germany who is amazing viewers on you tube with her strength and flexibility given that she is 86 years of age. 

She is what I consider to be one of the "elite elderly" who has manage to maintain her physical functioning rather than declining with age. Others members of this group include; Regis Philban (81), Clois Leachman (87), and Barbara Walters (83).  In the fitness industry we could consider the late Jack La Lanne who allegedly participated in his daily 2 hour work out the day before his death at age 96 and Joseph Pilates examples or elite elderly as well.

So is age really just a number? 

What makes the elite elderly different?

In researching their bios common characteristics include the following:

1. Proper nutrition and diet
2. Active lifestyle and exercise

In the case of Johanna her ability to maintain he level of gymnastic skill is is based upon a important principle that I believe to be true;

"If you don't move it, you lose it".

If you perform a task/functional activity consistently (at lease 1 time/week) throughout your life, you will never loose the ability to do it. 

One functional activity that older people lose is the ability to get up off of the floor from a position of supine and feel that it should be practiced at least 3 times a week by anyone over 50. Ideally one would alternate the leading leg when getting up. I like this skill as it involves many mini tasks that contribute to a person being able walk, balance and maintain independence. 

These tasks include:

1. Dorsiflexion of the ankle
2. Hip Extension
3. Quad/hamstring strength and control
4. Rolling/Abdominal Core activiation
5. Toe extension

I believe that if every person over the age of 50 did this one simple task every day, falling and consequences of falls would be diminished greatly.  

Becoming a member of the "Elite Elderly" is not easy but with some practice indeed possible. When one considers the alternative, it is definitely worth the effort.