In the next few articles, I’ll be writing about some of the physical infrastructure issues older adults might encounter in starting a new exercise program from scratch or after a long layoff.
Whether you begin exercising with weights, machines, stretch bands, or just your own bodyweight, you will discover that one of the major points of weakness will be your wrists. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, or are just starting out, you will find that your wrists are likely to be sore no matter what exercises you do. Whether you are pulling or pushing, lifting or carrying, you will find that there will be stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments in your wrist. When you are pulling, lifting or carrying things, you are stretching and lengthening the muscles, ligaments and tendons. When you are pushing (pushing up to get out of a chair for example), you are putting pressure on your wrist at various points in its movement cycle. And when you are twisting your wrist such as when you open a tight jar lid, you are putting major stress on your entire wrist, forearm and even your upper arm and shoulder.
Unless you have advanced bone brittleness (osteoporosis), your wrists should be able to bear a reasonable amount of weight. If you have major bone density problems, you will need to work on your wrist strength before putting a lot of weight on your wrists.
Flexibility is another challenge with your wrists. You may have difficulty moving your wrists throughout their entire range of motion. If that is the case, there are exercises you can do to improve their flexibility.
Here are a few simple starter exercises you can do to help with wrist strength and range of motion:
- Place your hands about six inches in front of your face with your fingers and palms together as in the traditional prayer position. Pushing your fingers, palms and heel of your hands together, rotate your hands side to side, and forward and back. Then rotate them in circles as much as you can. Do this for around ten to fifteen seconds at a time, and do it one or two times. Doing this will move your wrists through their entire range of motion with tension on both wrists the entire time.
- Put your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing forward, and with your fingers toward the ceiling. Bend your wrists forward and back through their entire range of motion. Do that for ten or fifteen cycles. Then, with your hands in the same position, rotate your hands and wrists as if they were the windshield wipers of your car, as far as you can in each direction. Do this ten or fifteen times.
- Sit in a straight back chair with your hands at your side on the side of the seat. Push with your hands and arms as if you were trying to lift your body off the chair. Make sure your weight is on your wrists. Don’t lift your body from the chair at first but put as much weight on your wrists as you are comfortable with. Your ultimate goal will be to lift your body a few inches straight up off the chair, but start slowly and take a week or so before you try to lift your entire body weight.
- Table Top. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, your knees slightly bent, and your arms by your side, fingers facing forward. Tilt your head back and lift your butt off the floor until your body forms a table. Your arms and your lower legs and feet act as the legs of the table and your flat torso as the table top. You will be spreading your bodyweight throughout your arms and lower legs and your torso will get a great exercise at the same time. Return to the starting point and do it for five repetitions, increasing to ten as you continue to do the movement over time. This movement works the back of your arms and your shoulders too, but it’s a great exercise to strengthen and test your wrists.
Those are simple wrist strengthening exercises with the last one being the best. Give them a try and see how they work for you. After a while, you can open that jar as well as have stronger, more flexible wrists. Start slowly and take your time. If you have sharp pain, stop.
Next week, I’ll talk about your ankles: How to strengthen them and how to increase their flexibility.
Thanks for reading.
Bob McMillan is a blogger, writer and speaker on the subject of Health, Fitness and Personal Energy for Active Seniors. He also holds a Personal Trainer Certification and designation as a Senior Fitness Specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Bob is 75 years old.