Tuesday, July 02 2019

Post-retirement years are eagerly anticipated after a lifetime of work and family rearing.  Sadly, many find the joy eclipsed by pain and physical ailments.  Sedentary lifestyles and repetitive labors age us into flexion and restricted movement.  Consequently, our lives become as restricted as our joints.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Properly designed exercise can provide a prescription for living well.

Fitmotivation.com has an entire category of videos devoted to healthy aging.  The video, Mobility Matrix, is the latest video to feature solutions for creating more meaningful movement and class designs.  U.K Aqua Training Specialist, Steph Toogood, has dedicated the latter part of her career towards educating fitness professionals on strategies for designing exercise programming for more “mature” audiences. 

Mobility Matrix provides an essential tutorial for incorporating movement solutions and corrective strategies into our class programming.   The aquatic environment provides the ideal training platform for helping people move better and live better.  And for this reason, aquatic fitness classes ARE and have always been the preferred exercise choice for older adults. 

Videos such as Mobility Matrix provide fitness leaders with a magic wand that can be waved over a class to transform regular exercises into more corrective movement patterns.  Instructors have the power and the choice to make a difference. They can continue on with jacks, skis, jogs and kicks as per usual; or they can learn how to add simple changes to jacks, skis, jogs and kicks to ensure more meaningful outcomes for their students.  This isn’t about changing what you are doing; it is about making it better. 

Mobility Matrix was so jam-packed with essential education and science-based movement that an Online Education Program was developed for it.  This program includes a 10-page extended education CEC handout and a 20-question online quiz worth 2.0 AEA CECs. 


Segment 1:  Mobility Patterns
Group fitness classes have always included a stretch segment at the end of class to promote flexibility.  As the years progressed, instructors were also encouraged to include dynamic flexibility in the warm-up.  The problem with this is that most of the movements and stretches in fitness classes are flexion-favored.  Instead, instructors should be encouraged to take it a step further and add or transform a segment of their class to full-body joint mobility.  Steph provides an excellent example of how to transform a warm-up into a series of mobility exercises that target the matrix of articulations from the ankles, through the knees, hips, spine, shoulders, wrists and fingers.  The goal is to articulate each joint through its full range of anatomical movement.  Doing so allows the joint to remain more supple and functional.  Students are rewarded with less restricted movement, decreased pain and the ability to perform activities of daily living more efficiently. 

Segment 2:  Gait Preparation
Gait is defined as a person’s manner of walking.  In this segment, gait preparation patterns are practiced without actually traveling.  The primary focus is on foot placement, ankle mobility and arm assistance.  Older adults often have issues with foot strike as the stiffening ankles fail to dorsi-flex.  Therefore movements featuring heel digs and foot rolls are included to encourage greater dorsi-flexion and mobility of the ankle joint.  Various arm patterns, both bilateral and unilateral, along with an arm swing with thoracic rotation are also practiced to enhance the leg and foot training.

Segment 3:  ADLs & Function This segment is based on the 7 primal moves – squat, lunge, push, pull, twist, bend and gait.  The focus is on ‘sit-to-stand’ and ‘step, lunge & reach.’  The combinations demonstrated assist with weak musculature in the lower body while encouraging the arms to fully play their part to assist with movements.  Functional training is performed to recreate the essential activities we must do to live and function well. 

Segment 4:  Balance & Fall Prevention
Training with a progression of stances - squat, stride, tandem and single leg - offers many possibilities to practice fall prevention in a safe environment.  The balance challenge encourages the core to stabilize and yet be mobile also.  In this segment, the arms are used to create turbulence, which increases the instability, thus providing progressive challenges.

Segment 5:  Travel Patterns
This segment targets walking patterns with ‘foot strike & roll’ and stride length, as well as strategies for adding power to the gait.  These patterns bring together many of the movements practiced in the previous segments to produce a gait with good posture and confidence.  Since the more mature student generally prefers to walk with small steps and a wide gait, this segment focuses on a longer step with accurate heel strike and synergistic arm movements.

Mobility Matrix offers fitness professionals education for designing programming with a more science-based approach.  The goal is to help students improve mobility and quality of life.  Whether you teach HIIT, boot camp, choreography or deep – all movement matters and all movement can be made better with a functional approach to training. 

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Steph for once again sharing her passion for teaching mature moves to mature audiences.   Steph is the founder of Hydro-Actif, the United Kingdom’s most widely recognized and respected aquatic fitness organization.  Check out Steph’s library of videos on Fitmotivation.com.  And look for Steph and her program, Mobility Matrix, at the International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) in May 2018.

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.