Silver lining

Updated: Jul 08, 2020, 11:49 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Inspired by Milind Soman's mother's 81st birthday push-ups, a fitness expert has tips for locked-in seniors

Usha Soman on her birthday. Pic/@milindrunning on Instagram
Usha Soman on her birthday. Pic/@milindrunning on Instagram

Are you satisfied?" That's what Usha Soman's smile seems to say at the end of a video that her son, actor-model Milind, had put up on his Instagram account on her 81st birthday last weekend. In it, the octogenarian completes 15 push-ups with the poise of a ballerina standing on her toes. Her arms don't shake. Her back doesn't bend. Her pace remains steady. And the smile she gives at the end shows that she is as satisfied with herself as social media was with her, where the video went viral.

It can't be easy achieving this physical feat at that age. And such form can't be achieved overnight, says Shalini Bhargava, director at JG's Fitness Centre in Santacruz West. "She runs marathons, and I'm sure that she's been exercising regularly for a long time," Bhargava says, referring to Soman, adding that other senior citizens can take encouragement from her. For those who do, she has certain tips, considering we are all locked in and the rains are also here. So, when the elderly exercise indoors, they should keep the following guidelines in mind.

Pilates on a mat are an excellent option for the elderly
Pilates on a mat are an excellent option for the elderly

. Exercises that involve lying down are the safest, since they negate the chances of falling down. "You can do leg-lifts and back exercises," Bhargava suggests, adding that pilates on a mat are an excellent option since most of the routines are in a lying-down or foetal position. "So, it's easy to follow and non-aggressive."

. A chair is a useful tool. There are a number of exercises you can do sitting on one, for your legs and even your spine, by rotating from side to side. "There is also a lot that I am reading up about chair yoga," Bhargava says, while extolling the virtues of pranayam as well.

. If senior citizens are going to exercise standing up, it's integral to make sure that their form is correct. The most important thing is not to get injured. And it's thus safer to practise routines like push-ups that involve a wall for support. Done correctly, these will improve core muscles. Balancing your body becomes a problem with old age because your centre of gravity shifts. The elderly should keep that in mind while doing standing exercises.

Shalini Bhargava
Shalini Bhargava

. The main motivation can be that if you're fit in your old age, you don't have to depend on anyone for something as menial as getting a glass of water, Bhargava says. "Take inspiration from people like Milind Soman's mother," she says. And while motivation must come from within, it helps if a group of people are doing it collectively over video calls. "Form a group, set tasks and post photos if you want," Bhargava advises.

. Family can also play an encouraging role by exercising with the senior members. They can show them the way. "I mean, right now my daughter is in front of me, and it should be the other way round when it comes to her and I," Bhargava laughs.

Watch what you eat

Merely exercising is not enough. Elderly people need to also avoid junk food in order to stay fit. Focus on vitamins, carbs, proteins and minerals. Bhargava says that the elderly sometimes concentrate on food more when they have nothing to do, like it is during the lockdown. "It happens in my family as well," she says, which is why staying away from unhealthy dishes is all the more important.

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