According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around one in three women and one in four men globally do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy. As we age, the gift of physicality we took for granted in our youth slowly starts to fade. Over a lifetime, our elasticity loses its stretch, our muscles want to shrink and shrivel, and our bones want to weaken. However, before you start to feel all weak and gloomy, there is good news. You can drastically push back this decline by maintaining your physical fitness and staying stretchy, strong and robust to a ripe old age. Exercise is one of our greatest weapons in our quest to stay young at heart, physically capable and mentally sound.

The NHS recommends all adults should:

  • aim to be physically active every day, even if it's just light activity
  • do activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least two days a week
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity if you are already active, or a combination of both
  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.

WHO goes on to recommend that adults aged 65 and over should, as part of their weekly physical activity, do varied multi-component physical activity that emphasises functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity, on three or more days a week, to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.

Hmm, if only we had a versatile, all-encompassing fitness tool that could help us train our movement skill, cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance and flexibility all at once ….

How should I use ViPR to train older adults who want to smile and dance about more?

If we really want to target the older adult with ViPR, we need to use it to its full potential and take advantage of the versatility it has to offer. Light ViPRs used for dynamic movement patterns can have a great cardio effect and can also assist with stretch and mobility drills for improved movement capability. Medium to heavy ViPRs are great for developing our strength, balance and stability in a functional environment. ViPR drills present novel, functional and fun ways of moving that we got from play in years gone by. If you no longer have a friend with whom you can wrestle, climb trees, play hopscotch or cartwheel, maybe ViPR can fill that movement void? The National Institute on Aging suggests that older adults should think of their exercise as having four components: endurance (think cardio here), balance, strength and flexibility. I think ViPR could be used to facilitate one or all of these components.

Bounce back with balance

Balance is a skill that gets better with practice; the more time we spend slouching around on the settee, the more wibbly wobbly we will become. As we age, the consequences of a fall get greater, fractures often lead to mobility issues and mobility issues chip away at our functional capacity and, ultimately, our independence. Balance training with ViPR can be fun and there are many levels of progression we can move through to make someone more stable on their feet. ViPR can be used as a balance aid to assist an individual’s stability or as a tool to shift their centre of gravity and challenge their balance regain.

ViPR tilt and balance

Standing ViPR upright and tilting in various directions helps to move our centre of gravity and challenge stability but, at the same time, it gives us another touch point connected to the ground that helps us to stabilise. This makes it a great balance exercise for beginners. In untrained individuals, just doing this with their feet touched together can be hard but they can usually progress quickly to one and a half feet and then to a single leg.

ViPR cylinder balance

Holding ViPR vertically in your hands requires good grip strength, core stability and a sense of balance. Holding ViPR nearer the top of the tube requires less control but, as you move the hands lower and lower down the tube, it becomes more sensitive to movement and less forgiving of instability. This is a great way to progress someone’s stability and also produces some of the best concentration faces.

ViPR pendulum swing

ViPR pendulums are dynamic in nature and so are best suited to improvers in balance training. The pull and sway of ViPR’s weight will try to shift you from your stable spot but strong core muscles will develop to help you hold your ground. It’s a fun drill and works well with music and dancing.

Funky functional weights

Fetching and carrying, moving and shifting, getting up and getting down. If we want to live a happy, healthy and independent life to a ripe old age, we need to be able to get ourselves and our stuff around. This requires strength, endurance and mobility in all directions.

ViPR Pick-up drills

Lifting items from the ground is fundamental to life, yet so many struggle or become injured when doing this. Teaching and strengthening healthy knee bend and hip hinging can save someone from injury and keep their back strong. Pick-up drills are a great vehicle to do this.

ViPR shovel drills

Shovel drills are great all-round exercises but, in particular, develop strength and power in the core and shoulders. Shovel drills teach you to effectively shift weight from one foot to the other when throwing, catching, striking or performing some other exciting power move. They are multi directional, multi joint and multi challenging.

ViPR squat and reach

This is just a great functional movement combo we do all the time in life when shopping, doing laundry or DIY – if you have something of weight you want to move, you’ll likely squat and reach. Challenge a client’s functional bubble with this one.

ViPR ground to stand

One observation I have of older adults in particular is that they just don’t get down on the ground often and so, on the rare occasion they find themselves flat on the floor, they don’t have the strength to get up. There are multiple movement strategies for getting up and down off the floor safely and you can use ViPR to assist them or to load them. Practise various ways of doing this; it can literally be a lifesaver one day!

Stretching out our youth

You don’t need me to tell you that, if you don’t move, you’ll get stiff. You will have felt it yourself when you watched the last royal wedding or most recent mind-blowing Netflix series. If we want to maintain full range of motion, we have to explore all of our body’s potential positions regularly and a life of beds, chairs and bar stools just isn’t enough to discover the outer limits of our joints’ and muscles’ movement capabilities. Pick up ViPR and stretch all of your bits and pieces in every direction.

ViPR hamstring stretch

If you find yourself sitting for most of the day, you’re welcome. Aim to progress the reach further and further down ViPR.

ViPR supported hip stretch

I often find a half kneeling position is quite unstable for a lot of people. As it’s a great position to stretch your anterior hip, it makes sense to use ViPR to stop you falling over and to assist the stretch.

ViPR low back stretch

The primary aim here is to deload and elongate the spine. Shifting ViPR in different directions gets into all the nooks and crannies. If you feel stiff and tired, this breathes life back into your back.

If there is even a small chance you might be getting old, be sensible.

A big part of being fit and healthy, particularly into your twilight years, is not getting hurt. So please have some consideration for the following:

1. If an individual hasn’t exercised for some time, get checked over by a doctor to ensure they’re ready to go. This is particularly important if underlying medical conditions are present.

2. Start the first few weeks with slow movement, light weight and small range of motion. Progress gradually from there.

3. Do balance drills early in the workout before you feel tired. Bad practice and lots of balance loss won’t make a great tightrope walker.

4. If it hurts, try something similar that doesn’t.

5. Manage fall risk. Position exercises in safe areas and, where possible, use a spotter because once you’re past 20, falling over hurts.

The above drills are suggestions and can easily be adapted to change the difficulty level. The video demonstrations do not represent a fully structured programme but offer insight and inspiration for you to draw from. Wherever life leads you, keep moving.

Stephen Tongue is Head of Education for ViPR. His passion for movement training led to him joining the ViPR Master Trainer Team at FitPro back in 2013. Stephen has remained a part of the team until this day as well as picking up Master trainer positions with other big fitness brands such as TRX and PowerPlate. A successful fitness coach, Stephen has regularly created content throughout his career for national and industry magazines, news bulletins, blogs and social media. Stephen has been motivating people for over 15 years and finds changing the lives of everyday people brings him the most satisfaction.