One of the most common complaints of older adults that echo off the walls in doctor and PT offices everywhere is this, “I have trouble standing up… My legs must be weak… Can you give me some exercises to strengthen my legs…”
Generally, while those exercises do strengthen the legs, they don’t solve the problem of standing up easily and older adults wrongly assume when they have this problem they are getting old and weak. This then creates a cycle of trying to find chairs with arms, or that are not too low, or sitting on the edge of the couch, etc. While these are all smart ideas to consider for both safety and practicality when standing is a concern, what is missing is a basic understanding of how standing up works, and in this little article (of which you will share with everyone you know, so sayeth the Wizard) we will learn the secret of standing up easily. It is both simple and common sense. I am proud to have shared this with thousands of people every year for the past decade.
Here it is: NOSE OVER TOES.
That’s the secret and here’s how it works. When you stand up, if your nose is behind your toes, or the front edge of your shoe, your body is ‘back’ heavy and you naturally fall back into your chair. Worse if your nose can’t even see over your knees, you will get stuck as well. Older adults wrongly interpret this as weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen:
If you’re in the wrong position (nose behind toes), you can’t get up. You will get stuck and fall back into your chair. This is not weakness, this is just being in the wrong position.
Here’s how to stand up properly and apply the Nose Over the Toes rule:
- 1. Tap your feet on the ground, to ‘Wake up Before You Stand Up’
- 2. Move to the front edge of your chair so you can tuck your feet back under you to make ‘Nose Over the Toes’ happen. If you’re too far back in the chair, your toes will be too far out in front of you!
- 3. Lean forward so your ‘Nose is Over the Toes’.
- 4. Use your arms if you need to help push your upper body toward the toes. Go up like an airplane going up, forward, and not straight up like a helicopter. Listen, using your arms is not cheating. I hear that a lot. All your arms do is push your ‘Nose Over Your Toes’ faster. (Unless you’re a gymnast who can do arm push ups, most of us are not that strong, so you’re not really cheating, just getting to a better position! And besides, it can make you feel more secure.)
- 5. Here’s a wonderful trick to complete the standing up part: Once your nose is over your toes, and you start to stand up, don’t lift up your head, lift your Fanny First, then your head. If you lift up your head, before your rear end, you pull all your weight back, and down you go, back into the chair- and that doesn’t matter how strong you are. This happens a lot to people, and once again, they think they are weak.
- 1. Tap your feet.
- 2. Move to the front chair edge.
- 3. Nose Over Toes.
- 4. Push forward with arms if need be
- 5. Fanny first, head second.
Of course, once you’re up, immediately bend your knees (Up and Down Keeps Me off the Ground) as this establishes balance.
I have helped hundreds of older adults who thought they couldn’t get out of a chair unassisted stand up within minutes. We are so much stronger than we think and younger than we know. Next month I will share with you the secret to keeping the legs strong you can do anytime!
It is devastating emotionally to believe you can’t get out of a chair, and 90% of those who think they can’t are wrong. Remember, if you’re in the wrong position, you can’t get up. And like they say about dancing; there are a lot of ways to dance the step wrong and only one way to do it right. If you find yourself in this position one day, use your intellect to find the right solution and you will!
It only takes a few days in bed to get a person into some poor habits, and standing properly is a habit you don’t want to lose! So stay young, Best of Health, Blessings, and keep putting Old on Hold.
John Paul Ouvrier, is a fitness trainer who specializes in working with older adults. He is the author of ‘The Wizard of Youth’ series for adults and children, the creator of ‘The Wizard of Youth 4 Kids Board Game’ and the Executive Director of Fitness For Charity. His websites are: http://wizardofyouth.com. & http://fitness4charity.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org