I do aerobic exercises for cardio-vasculo-pulmonary fitness – strengthening the heart and lungs and improving the circulation to all the other organs including the brain. That’s why aerobic exercise is also good for mental health.
I used to jog regularly and also bike occasionally when I was younger, but nowadays I do race walking (speed walking) about 4 – 5 times a week, about 3 km each time on weekdays and 10 -15 km on Sundays. I swim once a week, 6 -10 laps in a 50m pool and work out in the gym 2 - 3 times a week.
I am very particular about strength training which I think is very important, especially as we get older. Injuries are inevitable in any exercise programme. Low back pain, knee pain and neck pain are common as these three affected parts of our bodies are most prone to injury. Hence, I concentrate on doing exercises that strengthen these parts.
I train my quadriceps to protect my knees. I do knee extension exercises either on the knee extension machine in the gym or just half squats, or seated leg extension over a stool. For lower back a good exercise is the “good morning” back extension exercise over a support.
The neck exercise is a little tricky and best demonstrated in person. Basically, I rest my head on a firm support lying supine on the floor; then extend my neck backwards by pushing the back of my head down on the support, thereby lifting my shoulders and upper back off the floor. This will strengthen the muscles at the back of the neck and upper back and prevent the development of kyphosis or dowager’s hump commonly seen in old people.
I also make sure I train my abdominals by doing crunches and the “Plank”. For all these exercises I do 1 -2 sets of 8 to 10 reps each, with maximum effort or until failure and using the heaviest weight that I can manage.
Stretching exercises are also important, which I do daily. As we get older, flexibility is as important, if not more so, than strength, especially in fall prevention and even in bending down to tie your shoe laces.
Dr Leong Lee San