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Exercise FAQs

Exercise Stage 1

The following four exercises comprise Stage 1 of the Growing Stronger program. When you’ve been doing the exercises of this stage for at least two weeks, OR if you are fairly fit right now, you can add the exercises in Stage 2. Remember to always do the Warmup and Cooldown as part of each exercise session.

Squats (click here for animation)

A great exercise for strengthening hips, thighs, and buttocks. Before long, you’ll find that walking, jogging, and climbing stairs are a snap!

  1. In front of a sturdy, armless chair, stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Cross your arms over your chest and lean forward a little at the hips.
  2. Making sure that your knees NEVER come forward past your toes, lower yourself in a slow, controlled motion, to a count of four, until you reach a near-sitting position.
  3. Pause. Then, to a count of two, slowly rise back up to a standing position. Keep your knees over your ankles and your back straight.
  4. Repeat ten times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of ten repetitions.

Note 1: If this exercise is too difficult, start off by using your hands for assistance. If you are unable to go all the way down, place a couple of pillows on the chair or only squat down four to six inches.

Note 2: Placing your weight more on your heels than on the balls or toes of your feet can help keep your knees from moving forward past your toes. It will also help to use the muscles of your hips more during the rise to a standing position.

Make sure you:
  • Don’t sit down too quickly.
  • Don’t lean your weight too far forward or onto your toes when standing up.

Wall Pushups (click here for illustration)

This exercise is a modified version of the push-up you may have done years ago in physical education classes. It is less challenging than a classic push-up and won’t require you to get down on the floor-but it will help to strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest.

  1. Find a wall that is clear of any objects-wall hangings, windows, etc. Stand a little farther than arm’s length from the wall.
  2. Facing the wall, lean your body forward and place your palms flat against the wall at about shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
  3. To a count of four, bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion, keeping your feet planted.
  4. Pause. Then, to a count of two, slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight-but don’t lock your elbows.
  5. Repeat ten times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of ten repetitions.
Make sure you:
  • Don’t round or arch your back.

Toe Stands (click here for animation)

If a walk in the park no longer seems easy or enjoyable, the “toe stand” exercise is for you! A good way to strengthen your calves and ankles and restore stability and balance, it will help make that stroll in the park fun and relaxing.

  1. Near a counter or sturdy chair, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Use the chair or counter for balance.
  2. To a count of four, slowly push up as far as you can, onto the balls of your feet; and hold for two to four seconds.
  3. Then, to a count of four, slowly lower your heels back to the floor.
  4. Repeat ten times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of ten repetitions.
Make sure you:
  • Don’t lean on the counter or chair-use them for balance only.
  • Breathe regularly throughout the exercise.

As shown on the animation, as you get stronger, you can do this exercise on one leg at a time to increase intensity.

Finger Marching (click here for illustration)

In this exercise you’ll let your fingers, hands, and arms do the walking. This will help strengthen your upper body and your grip, and increase the flexibility of your arms, back, and shoulders.

  1. Stand, or sit forward in an armless chair, with feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Movement 1: Imagine there is a wall directly in front of you. Slowly walk your fingers up the wall until your arms are above your head. Hold them overhead while wiggling your fingers for about ten seconds and then slowly walk them back down.
  3. Movement 2: Next, try to touch your two hands behind your back. If you can, reach for the opposite elbow with each hand-or get as close as you can. Hold the position for about ten seconds, feeling a stretch in the back, arms, and chest.
  4. Movement 3: Release your arms and finger-weave your hands in front of your body. Raise your arms so that they’re parallel to the ground, with your palms facing the imaginary wall. Sit up straight, but curl your shoulders forward. You should feel the stretch in your wrist and upper back. Hold the position for about ten seconds
  5. Repeat this three-part exercise three times.
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