Weight vest to strengthen your bones

How to use the weight vest to strengthen your bones and improve balance.

Weight vest strengthen your bonesYou should start out slow with the weights depending on your fitness level.

I recommend that you use 4 lbs of weight at first unless you work out a lot. You’ll be surprised at how heavy this small amount of weight will feel at first. Each weight is half a pound so that is 8 weights. You can distribute them wherever is most comfortable for you. Slip the ones you are not using out of the pockets by bending the weights and put them somewhere you will remember.

If you are in good shape and accustomed to exercise then you can just add the weight vest to any exercise that you already do. You will burn more calories with the vest on so you can choose to exercise for shorter periods.

If you are in the habit of walking then you can go on your normal walk. If not, then choose a time of day that you are most active and wear the vest while doing your normal chores. If you want to start doing some exercises indoors with the vest on there are some good ones listed below. But be kind to yourself and be realistic about your fitness level. If you overdo it then you’ll be sore tomorrow and that’s a bad start.

Wear the vest for an hour a day, 5 days a week, at the beginning. Some people like to wear the vest for longer but then you would do better to wear it only on alternate days.

When this feels easy you can add an extra 2 lb weight to the vest. Then keep adding weights until you get up to the whole ten pounds.  All the pockets will take double weights so put them wherever they are most comfortable for you.

This is a lot of weight, probably enough, and you will have noticed a lot of changes in your strength and balance by the time you get to this point.

If you want to move on from here I can sell you another 2 lbs of weights or more but it is not really about loading yourself down with weights. It is better to do more with the weights that you have, do more movements that take you slightly off balance, like rebounding or balancing on one foot or turning. That creates more learning for your muscles and bones and causes them to grow. You want to encourage your body to have more flexibility in every position. Strength and flexibility and balance are all important to have safety in movement as you age.

I was walking in a strange place in the very dark recently on a visit to New Zealand and tripped over a rock wall about a foot high. I went flying and fell down 2 feet into a culvert. My foot hurt and I found out later I had fractured a couple of metatarsals. When I went back to the place the next day I was amazed that I had not done much more severe damage. Falling into a concrete hole at my age was a recipe for disaster. So I figured that my bones were a lot more flexible and strong than could normally be expected. So strength alone is not what we are aiming at with this vest.

EXERCISES WITH THE WEIGHT VEST

I first have to say that you should consult your physician before starting any exercise program. I would prefer to say that you should consult your inner wisdom and treat yourself with care and respect. Watch the videos with exercises on vimeo mentioned at the bottom of the cover letter so you can see them yourself and use correct form. I was a Feldenkrais Practitioner for years, which is a kind of movement therapist, and I learned many interesting ways of being present in my body that have served me very well.

WALKING When you walk, push off the balls of your feet, causing your feet to bend. We don’t use the power of pushing off from the earth as we get older. Most older people rarely bend their feet. Our feet have so many bones and joints in them, they are really amazing. Try walking with socks or bare feet and push off the balls of the feet rolling over the toes. This will cause your knees to bend and your hip to rotate naturally and make less wear on your hip joints.

Another thing that is fun to do when walking with a friend is to walk backwards for a few minutes every once in a while. The friend can watch for holes and rocks so you don’t trip over. You use different muscles walking backwards. In fact they say it creates more muscle than walking forward.

KNEE BENDS Stand next to an open door holding the handles on both sides. Bend your knees very slowly and go as far down into a squat as you are comfortable. Come up slowly too. The slower you do it the harder it is and the more muscle you will build. Your arms are just holding you steady, don’t use them to pull you up. You can have a stool behind you if you are afraid of falling. Do as many as you want with ten as the goal.

STEPS  Either go up and down your stairs, if you have any, or find a two step somewhere and go up and back down until your thighs burn – which won’t be long at first! If you are doing the two step go down backwards but hold on to the rail lightly for balance. You can also try going up the stairs with only the ball of your foot on the stair. This will exercise your hamstrings more.

ARCHES This will help train your feet for the new way of walking. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step and raise and lower your body slowly ten times. This is a workout for your hamstrings as well as your feet. You can hold onto a rail for support but only as much as you really need to.

TURNS Stand with your feet about hip width apart, bend your knees slightly, tuck your butt under and put both arms out to the sides. Then reach your left hand in an arc across your body to the right hand turning only your upper body. Your bottom half stays facing forward. If you were in a wide hallway you would be touching the side wall – 10 times, then to the other side. This is good for balance because most fractures are caused by falls and they tend to be caused by turning to the side. Notice what is happening in your head and with your eyes while you turn. If you feel unstable turn your eyes slowly and evenly with no jerking.

WALL PUSHOFFS Stand with your feet about a foot away from a wall. Put both hands flat on the wall and, keeping your body straight, lean in to the wall and back. If this is too easy move your feet further away from the wall. Do it ten times very slowly.

REBOUNDING If you have a rebounder then you can use it with the weight vest on as well. Rebounding is the very best exercise for building bone. It is what NASA used to get the astronauts back in shape. The both-feet-together bounce is best to start and then a fast walk is good as well. BUT only use 4 lbs of weights with the rebounder because it magnifies the effect. There is a complete rebounding workout on my videos. 5 minutes on the rebounder with the weight vest will bring your blood sugar down 40 points if you are diabetic.

BECOMING AWARE OF MOVEMENT Try to put some part of your attention on your movement at all times. That may sound odd, but we are creatures of habit and most of us don’t notice how we move around. Notice if you are using muscles that you don’t need, for example, tightening your shoulders or your face when doing something difficult. Notice if you hold things tighter than is needed. Mostly it is the extra tightening that we can notice and let go of. Often when you let go of the effort involved in tightening all the extra muscles, then your movement becomes clearer and easier.

One of the main principles of movement therapy is to use all of the muscles we need to do each action but none that we don’t need.

Fear is at the bottom of much of the extra work we do with our muscles as they age. When your body doesn’t obey you in quite the same way as it used to, it is a bit nerve-wracking. That causes us to stiffen up all over as if being tight will keep us safe. Really, the opposite is true – being loose will keep us safe! And being tight all over wears us out, energy-wise, and also it wears out our joints. Set fear aside as much as possible and allow your body the space to get stronger.  Take every safety precaution you can, and then, just do the work!

All the exercises above will increase your core strength, balance and stability. Go as fast as you want to. Fall off the wagon when you need to. Just don’t stop for good. Getting moving is essential to a happy life and it has been well proven that movement can be regained at any age.

MORE TIPS ON ALIGNMENT

STANDING

Think about most of the behaviors that you have done in your life; reaching, carrying, picking up, sitting, reading, computer work, shopping, gardening, etc. I bet that almost every one of them has you leaning forward from vertical in some way. There is almost no action that you take in your daily life that would have you leaning backward and arching your spine. The only ones I can think of are painting the ceiling and swimming butterfly style.

This constant leaning over the years causes us to develop the forward slouching upper spine and shoulders that is a mark of aging. When your shoulders hang forward your waist goes backward to compensate, so you also lose the beneficial arch in your lower back. Sitting in chairs is also a killer for that lower arch.

The physical consequence of this posture is that the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders get tight because they are trying to support the head, which is heavy. Unfortunately, there is a psychological aspect to this leaning posture as well as the physical. One of my teachers called the typical older person’s slouch the posture that says “No!” to life. There is less life-affirming openness in the heart area, less opportunity to risk, to move fast, to jump into things, to embrace life.

Try an experiment : Stand normally, whatever that means for you, and notice the curves of your spine. Notice where your hands fall at your sides and which way they are facing. Notice your chin and where it is pointing. Don’t change anything or try to improve, just notice where you are right now.

Now try thrusting your shoulders back like your Dad told you to long ago, and see what effect that has on your spine, your neck and your chin.

Let that go and move back to normal. Now put a finger on your breast bone above your breasts and move your spine so that the finger goes out and up in a quarter circle. Notice where your chin and your shoulders are now. You are straighter, aren’t you? And your lower spine remembered its original curve just as your chin remembered to stay level. Remember this during the day so often that it becomes habitual and you will be on the way to saying “Yes!” to life once more.

WALKING

I have two tips for better walking. The first is to roll over the balls of your feet causing your feet to bend at the arch so that you can push firmly off the ground. Most of us walk as if we were Hovercraft. We have no feeling of communication with the Earth beneath us. This pushing motion will cause your hips to rotate naturally in their sockets as if you were moving at a much faster pace.

The second tip is to imagine a string tied to your pubic bone that gently tugs you along. This will bring your lower body forward to lead your walk instead of dragging around somewhere in the rear.

Another small thing is to notice where your hands are facing as they swing by your side while you walk. If they are facing backward, try facing them forward for half the time. This automatically brings your shoulders into better alignment. You could hold a tennis ball in both hands and keep it facing forward as if you were going to throw it, to remind yourself.

SITTING

Sitting on couches and soft chairs is murder to our spine. Whenever you get the chance, sit in a straight backed chair or on a stool, and support your own spine for a while. It will get stronger. You can do the breastbone arching in the sitting position as well.

Another thing you can do in a straight back chair is to roll your weight around in a circle on the chair while keeping your upper spine straight in the center of the circle.

Most of this and much more is on the video series. You get the url and password with your vest.

 

Disclaimer: If you have back or neck problems or vertebral fractures then a weight vest might not be advised. Consult your doctor before using weights or starting exercise programs.