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A personal trainer shares one simple longevity exercise you can do anywhere

Gabby Landsverk   

A personal trainer shares one simple longevity exercise you can do anywhere
  • A trainer who works with people in their 60s to 90s says stability is key to a long, healthy life.
  • She says balance exercises go a long way to help you age gracefully.

No matter your age, the best time to start exercising to age gracefully is right now, and you don't need a gym to do it, according to a trainer who specializes in fitness for a long, healthy life.

Andi Kwapien has spent more than two decades as an instructor for SilverSneakers, an exercise program for adults age 65 and older (available at no cost with eligible Medicare plans).

Kwapien told Business Insider that she was seeing firsthand the benefits of exercise for people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, even if they'd just started a fitness routine.

"It is never too late," she said. "Even people in their much later years see improvements in muscular endurance, muscular strength, even some muscle mass building back up to help with frailty."

One of the most important exercises for longevity is one you can start doing right now without going to a gym or class.

Kwapien says stability exercise can help anyone move and feel better in everyday activities and fortifies your body against the natural wear and tear of aging.

Try movements such as quick-step knee raises, single-leg balance drills, and core exercises to help you stay fit for years to come.

Stability training can help you stay strong and prevent injury as you age

Research shows that having good balance is linked to a longer life, based on a simple one-leg balance test.

But Kwapien goes even further and teaches people how to apply balance in everyday activities to feel and move better.

"We speak in real-life terms so that our members know why we're doing what we're doing," Kwapien said. "You're not standing on one leg in your kitchen, you're moving around and putting stuff on high shelves and tripping over your cat. Those kinds of things."

One of Kwapien's go-to exercise routines trains balance, reaction time, and stability all at once with a series of quick steps into a knee raise hold. To do it, take a few quick shuffle steps forward and lift one knee, holding your balance in that position. You can also move side to side or add a quarter turn to make it more challenging.

Kwapien says she's seen clients experience major health benefits from the exercise — one woman said doing the drill helped her avoid serious injury when her dog pulled her off balance to chase after a rabbit.

"One of my members emailed me, and she says, 'Andi, I just have to let you know I hate that step, quick hold. But let me tell you saved me. I didn't fall over because I had that ability,'" Kwapien said. "Not that I hope that you ever have that situation, but my hope is that the training is real life to what you need."

Stability training is also great for building muscle and protecting your joints with functional movements such as step-ups and other single-leg exercises.

Other trainers also recommend the Pallof press and plank variations for a strong core.

Stability exercises can give you a challenging workout, too. More intense versions of stability exercises include movements such as single-leg squats that can work your hip and mobility as well as strengthen your legs.

Even a few minutes of exercise a day can help you live longer and be healthier

Whether you're new to fitness or an experienced athlete, consistency is key to exercise, so the best strategy is to find something you can do long term, Kwapien says.

"Start now and have fun with it. If exercise isn't fun, you're not going to do it," she said. "If you have the best program in the world and you do it one time, it does not give you the benefits. Just keep going regularly every week."

Research suggests that every minute of exercise (even walking) adds up to help stave off chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

Aim to fit all kinds of movement into your life and incorporate stability and other longevity exercises, such as mobility work, into a routine you enjoy.

"If you like yoga, that's great, and if you like dance, that's wonderful. And if tai chi's your thing, fantastic. And if you like to run, great, if you like to lift hefty heavy things, great, want to go a little lighter, fine." Kwapien said. "It's all good, and it's all going to provide a benefit."

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