Stand Up to Aging
Ground-to-standing exercises help older exercisers preserve strength, improve agility and prevent hazardous falls.
Getting up off the ground grows more difficult as we age. Muscles and bones weaken, coordination becomes less fluid, and simply doing chores around the house gets more challenging.
Ground-to-standing (G2S) exercises address these changes. While even performance athletes can benefit from G2S drills (see the sidebar “G2S Exercises Also Help Performance Athletes”), they’re supremely helpful for older exercisers who are at risk for broken hips and other threats to their mobility. In addition to improving strength and mobility, G2S drills improve circulation and neuromuscular coordination. Adding resistance and load to these drills further improves strength and endurance.
Let’s look at the background on G2S exercises, why they’re beneficial to older clients, and how they help aging bodies perform better.
Why G2S Ability Is So Important
Playing with children and grandchildren requires sinking to their level. Then there’s the matter of getting back up—which becomes more challenging every year. G2S drills make it easier to get down on the ground to play with kids, then hop back up and chase them around.
These challenges multiply around the household. Reading glasses fall under the coffee table; cat toys must be fetched from under the couch. Everyday activities underscore a fundamental concern for older people: “Sitting [down on the floor and then rising from it are basic functional tasks] required for autonomy. The inability to perform these and similar actions are closely related to the risk of falling, and if a fall has occurred, the capacity to return to an upright position is critical” (Brito et al. 2012).
Loss of strength, mobility and agility poses severe risks to aging clients. A 2011 study found that women aged 70–79 who suffer a hip fracture double their risk of dying within a year. For women 80 and older who are in excellent health, a hip fracture nearly triples their risk of dying within a year (LeBlanc et al. 2011). Brito and colleagues found that adults who scored low on the sitting-rising test (SRT) faced more than a six-fold increase in all-cause mortality.
G2S exercises improve the strength and mobility people need to extend their life expectancy.
Why G2S Ability Declines With Age
Aging has three fundamental markers:
- dynapenia (loss of muscle strength) (Clark & Manini 2012)
- sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) (Doherty 2003)
- decreased lean body mass (loss of muscle, bone and connective tissue)
These changes make it more challenging to move efficiently in three dimensions (direction, distance and depth). Furthermore, modern conveniences free older adults from having to perform a range of three-dimensional movements. All these trends reduce mobility and increase the risk of falls.
Studies have noted that aging reduces the nervous system’s capacity for communicating with connective tissue and muscle (Tieland, Trouwborst & Clark 2018). This process degrades muscle recruitment, making it more difficult to perform activities of daily living.
That’s why G2S exercises are so important: They address the twin assaults of dynapenia and sarcopenia.
Getting G2S Drills Right
G2S drills (see the sidebar “5 Ground-to-Standing Exercises”) are designed to improve strength and mobility by rhythmically lengthening and shortening the body’s connective tissues. The drills start from odd positions to enhance space and motion at the foot and ankle, pelvis and hips, thoracic spine, and scapulothoracic joints. Properly performing the G2S drills can enhance posture. Optimal postural alignment represents a proper balance in mobility and strength.
G2S exercises don’t require equipment, so it’s possible to do them anywhere, anytime. Clients can start from ground positions such as sitting, kneeling, half-kneeling (one knee on the ground), supine, prone or side-lying. Practice coaching your clients on how to get up off of the floor from a variety of these starting positions. Clients who need assistance can use a bench or seat.
G2S Exercises Also Help Performance Athletes
Ground-to-standing exercises add a variety of motions that can help performance athletes get stronger and avoid injuries. Since strength requires an ability to accumulate and produce force, the neuromuscular system and the connective tissue system must be able to communicate efficiently to tolerate these forces.
Improving tissue tolerance and neuromuscular communication requires athletes to perform and repeat motions from a variety of positions and directions with differences in load, speed, and time under tension.
All sports require players to get into unusual positions that require bending and extending the ankles, knees and hips. Motions go in all directions, across small and large distances, and include getting low to the ground and exploding high into the air.
G2S drills can be terrific movement preparations for tennis, baseball, hockey, football, soccer, volleyball, basketball and many other ground sports. All athletes need efficiency and speed when going to the ground and getting back up.
Enhancing Circulation With G2S
The G2S method naturally pumps fluid throughout the body. Moving up and down through and against the field of gravity causes blood, lymph and water to flow more readily. The muscle’s pumping action and changes in hydrostatic pressures circulate the fluids (Reed & Rubin 2010).
The more repetitive the movement is and the closer you get to the ground before standing back up again, the more fluid gets pumped throughout the body (Schleip et al. 2012). This flow is crucial for maintaining homeostasis in the cells, delivering oxygen to the cells, removing metabolic waste through the lymphatic system and enhancing overall cardiovascular efficiency.
Increasing the speed of these exercises makes the cardiovascular system work overtime, creating an excellent cardiovascular modality.
Benefits of Doing G2S Drills
- reduces anxiety and depression
- improves memory and cognition
- enhances self-esteem
Source: Delbaere et al. 2004.
- improves performance in activities of daily living
- slows the impact of sarcopenia and dynapenia
- increases bone and tissue density
- improves balance
- helps prevent falls
- helps fight diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure
- decreases risk factors for all-cause mortality
- lessens chronic pain from osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia
- improves symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
Age, Motion and G2S
Humans self-organize when they move. That is the essence of motor learning. Babies learn how to get up off the ground without much coaching. The same is evident throughout the animal kingdom: Movement is self-taught.
However, efficiency of movement doesn’t come so naturally; it has to be enhanced with practice. Repetition and progression yield greater neuromuscular coordination as the nerves improve their ability to communicate with the body’s motor systems.
5 Ground-To-Standing Exercises
By improving muscle strength, cardiovascular efficiency and functional independence, these ground-to-standing exercises will enhance your clients’ ability to move better. The drills should be performed daily, progressing from the simplest to the most difficult, as shown below.
For each exercise, have clients do 1–2 sets of 10 repetitions. Exercise 5 is the most challenging, requiring the most strength and mobility. While these exercises are ideal for older exercisers, you can use them as a warmup in any client’s program. Note: See the corresponding demonstration videos in the online version of June Fitness Journal, at ideafit.com.
1.Tall Kneeling Step To Stand
- Start in a kneeling position, one foot forward.
- Fix your eyes forward as if sighting a target. Drive the ground down with your front foot, keeping the upper body still, and step up to a standing position.
- Maintain good posture, then step the frontfoot back to the starting position.
2. Crisscross Applesauce Spin
- Sit in the “crisscross applesauce” position.
- Twist back and away from your top leg, and spin your feet and hips 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
- Use your hand to push the ground away and shift into a standing position.
- Reverse the pattern on the way down by placing the hand on the ground and twisting back into the seated starting position.
3. Supine Roll To Inchworm
- Lie in a supine position.
- Roll over to a prone position.
- Push your body off the ground into a plank.
- Walk your hands toward your feet, and then stand up out of your deep bow.
- Bend over and walk your hands back to a plank position.
- Lower your chest until your body is flat on the ground.
- Roll back over.
- Repeat, rolling in the other direction.
4.Prone Stand to Statue
- Start in a prone plank position, hands shoulder-width apart, feet hip-width apart.
- Step your right foot to the outside of your right hand.
- Shift your weight onto the right leg and push the ground away.
- Propel yourself vertically into a single-leg balanced stance.
- Hold that position as though you were a statue.
- Reverse the pattern to descend back to the starting position.
- Alternate sides (left side is shown), or perform a desired number of
reps on the same side before switching.
5. Side-lying Crossover To Forward Lunge
- Start in a side-lying position leaning on the hand or, for a greater challenge,
on the forearm.
- Cross the top leg toward the supporting arm that is in contact with the ground.
- Drive the front leg into the ground to transfer off the ground.
- Immediately continue your momentum forward by stepping into a forward lunge.
- Reverse the pattern by stepping back into the starting position.
- In that starting position, stay as straight as a steel beam.
Aging degrades movement efficiency. The G2S method is a safe, effective way to turn that around, enhancing communication and coordination in the body. Put these exercises to work so your older clients can stay strong and agile and reduce the risks of dangerous falls.