Why older adults should practice calisthenics

Cristian Bianchi has been a physical trainer for more than five years. He founded one of the first gyms specialized in calisthenics in Guatemala City, with the objective of offering people an opportunity to forge healthy lifestyles.

He learned about this training method during one of his trips to Europe. It consists of using only the body’s weight during exercise. The goal is to gain control of body mass, without the need for resistance or additional loads.

In 2015, the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) indicated that calisthenics is the leading sport in the world. In addition, it said it helps reduce the number of individuals who die from lack of physical activity, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), amounts to approximately 3.2 million each year.

For Bianchi, this training is key to reducing that global figure and is far from excluding people because of their age. In 2021 he serves about 120 students in his gym, three of which are senior citizens.

Today he explains five reasons why older people, regardless of their injuries or conditions, should also practice calisthenics.

Maintains body mobility

To help his pupils, Bianchi follows the Best Progress Method (BPM), which establishes demanding routines according to the abilities of the person. The instructor says that older adults often do basic, assisted exercises, such as push-ups, squats, planks, or chin-ups.

According to Bianchi, the first reason that should motivate them to practice calisthenics is that it allows them to maintain body mobility. Through constant exercise, they can get into the habit of staying active. Thus, their muscles are less likely to atrophy and become completely sedentary.

“Usually, conditions don’t let grandparents move around as much. With calisthenics we prevent their muscles from atrophying because they never stop straining,” he says.

Gives more independence

When designing his routines, one of Bianchi’s priorities is to make sure that older adults understand what they will use the movements for in their daily lives. “For example, squats allow them to later get up from a chair. That way they have control over their body and do not always need help,” she says.

In the instructor’s opinion, the second reason derives from that teaching: calisthenics give a sense of independence to those who are older. Exercises expand their possibilities of acting by themselves every day.

In addition, the trainer emphasizes that calisthenics promote mental health, since it improves self-esteem and allows people to feel that they are still capable of achieving their goals.

“When we are old, we may perceive ourselves as less capable, but calisthenics help us maintain the certainty that we can still do things,” he states.

Helps to recover a correct posture

According to Bianchi, the body gets used to living as the usual stimuli demand. He mentions, for example, that people who spend their days in front of the computer can develop spine, back, neck and general posture problems.

“That’s why we hear older people say that their back hurts. They lead a life with bad stimuli,” he explains.

For him, calisthenics are a source of appropriate stimuli that allow the body to be stretched, moved in all directions and to recover a proper posture. In his opinion, this benefit is even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, which demands us to stay in our homes and use digital devices more often.

“In the pandemic many stopped moving as they did before. That is why it’s important to build those healthy habits throughout life,” he considers.

Encourages closer relationships

A 2016 study by Harvard University in the United States says that one of the keys to achieving happiness is to build deep relationships. Bianchi says that calisthenics, in addition to improving physical condition and appearance, helps cultivate bonds between older adults and family and friends.

“It improves the quality of life for everyone. It is not the same to have a grandparent who can travel or walk, as it is to have one who can barely move. If there are more activities that people can do together, the relationship is likely to grow,” he indicates.

Helps to lead by example

One of the concerns of the 21st century is the high exposure of children and adolescents to screens. Research reveals that the amount of time is close to seven hours a day. For Bianchi, older adults should also practice calisthenics to inspire young people to prioritize health and stop focusing so much on the digital world.

“We need to show young people that it has an inclusive approach. When people tell me they cannot practice it, I show them videos of some grandparents training with their grandchildren. And people get engaged and question why they should not practice it if grandparents can,” he says.

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