Fall Prevention Series – Upper Body Exercises Part I

  By Dr. Harry Papadopoulos Last month in this series of strength training for fall prevention, we concentrated on lower body exercises. In this month’s series, the emphasis will be placed on upper body exercises. Even though it is well recognized that lower body strength is important for balance, stamina and reducing the risk for knee injuries and falling, upper body strength is also important. The benefits of upper body strength include: Better posture – Strong shoulders and upper back allow for good posture to avoid slumping and hunching. Furthermore, good posture and strong abdominal muscles can prevent back pain. Daily living activities – Strong arms allow for completion of daily living activities like reaching, pushing, pulling and lifting. The following movements can be completed with the use of exercise bands or light wrist weights. These exercises can be performed 2-3 times per week on the same days as your lower body exercises. You need to perform two sets of 10 repetitions. If this number is too hard for you when you first start, begin with fewer repetitions and work up to this number. Eventually, you want to work your way up to 15 repetitions each. Remember to not hold your breath while performing these exercises and check with your personal physician to determine which exercises are appropriate for you. Seated Back Row (strengthens upper back muscles) Sit in an armless chair. Extend your legs and wrap the middle of the band around feet (be sure the band is secure around your feet and won’t slip). Grasp both ends of band with elbows straight. Breathe out and pull the band upward and back, bending elbows. Legs can be bent as in the photo or straight. Breathe in and slowly return to starting position. Repeat 10 times. Rest for a minute and perform another set of 10 repetitions. Tip: Keep your knees and back straight and focus on pinching your shoulder blades together. Alternative: Use light wrist weights and follow steps 4-7 Seated Chest Press (strengthens chest muscles) Sit in an armless chair. Place the band behind your back underneath your armpits with your elbows bent. Your fists should be even with your chest. Breathe out and push your fists forward to the center of your body. Breathe in and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times Rest for a minute and perform another set of 10 repetitions. Alternative: Use light wrist weights, raise your arms so your fists are even with your chest and then follow steps 3-6. Overhead Press (strengthens shoulders) Sit in an armless chair with feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping palms facing forward, raise hands until the bands or dumbbells (or soup cans) are level with your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Breathe out and push the dumbbells over your head until your arms are fully extended. Do not lock your elbows. Breathe in, and slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder level. Repeat 10 times. Rest for a minute and perform another set of 10 repetitions. For more upper body exercises from Dr. Papadopoulosto to help prevent falls, visit our blog next week. Dr. Harry Papadopoulos is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Pacific Lutheran University and a certified Health and Fitness Instructor by the American College of Sports Medicine. His research interests are in fall prevention and physical activity interventions for older adults. You can contact Dr. Papadopoulos at [email protected] if you have any questions.   Exercise photos courtesy of the National Institute on Aging.