Please could you suggest some shoulder exercises? I’m 90 years old and do all my own shopping and house work, so my shoulders ache all the time.
Doing housework and carrying shopping may feel like unwelcome chores but they will have helped you stay strong and agile into your 10th decade. While suitcases on wheels and supermarket home deliveries are very convenient, they are also examples of how we are losing everyday opportunities to keep fit. I advise my older clients to carry bags of shopping (evenly balanced in both hands if possible), as this provides a free workout for your arms which will strengthen muscles and promote bone density.
Shoulders can be troublesome, though, especially as we age. Our many shoulder tendons and small muscles can quite easily become inflamed or tear. They also tend to take a long time to heal – not least because it is very difficult to suddenly stop using an injured shoulder.
Here’s some exercise suggestions for your achy shoulders. But first a note of caution: if you get pain whenever you lift an arm in a particular direction, you should ask your GP to refer you to a physiotherapist to assess and help treat any shoulder injuries you may have. If it is just general stiffness and achiness, these may help:
1. Loosening: standing with good posture, “roll” your shoulders by pulling them up to your ears, squeezing them backwards and pulling them down again. Repeat 10 times. Click here for the full exercise. Next, stand up, lean slightly over a table with one hand resting on it and allow your “hanging” arm to swing freely round, as though drawing circles on the floor. Do 5 circles, change direction, then repeat with the other arm. Do these movements daily, morning and night, and whenever you feel stiff or achy. Click here for the full exercise.
2. strengthening: using a stretchy exercise band, sit upright on the edge of a chair with the band draped over your knees. Scoop the band up a few inches and, keeping your elbows tight to your body, pull your hands apart out to the sides. Hold, then bring hands back together again, slowly. Repeat 10 times (fewer if you get tired). Click here for the full exercise. Next, still sitting, hold a 50cl bottle of water in each hand, arms straight down by your legs and palms facing forwards. Bend your arms to bring the bottles of water slowly up towards you, making sure you keep your elbows still. Stop a little before the bottles touch your shoulders and lower them slowly again until arms are straight. Repeat 10 times, swapping to heavier bottles or cans when this gets easy. Click here for the full exercise. Do these exercises every other day.
3. Stretching: Stand with wide legs and a little bend in your knees. Place your hands on your bum, lift your chest and squeeze your shoulders gently back, to get a good stretch across your chest. Hold for a slow count of 6, relax and repeat. Do this very important stretch morning and evening, every day. Click here for the full exercise