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Good to Know: Exercise, physical therapy can help recoup muscle mass

Lift one knee as high as you can

Lift one knee as high as you can and hold it for a slow count of five. Put knee down, foot on floor, and repeat with the other knee. ....(Andy Nowack/Dreamstime/TNS) Credit: TNS/Andy Nowack/Dreamstime

Have you lost so much muscle that it has become hard for you to move?

Do you keep a step-stool handy because you can’t reach up to a cabinet shelf with a jar in your hand and no longer have the muscle to take the weight of an item down from a shelf?

Do you have to push yourself up from a seated position because your legs no longer have the strength to lift your body upright without help?

If any of those things are true, you have only two choices: to let things continue to deteriorate until you end up helpless in a wheelchair, or to do some real muscle building work to regain your strength. You may need some physical therapy, or PT, to provide a necessary wake-up call to your withered muscles as you begin rebuilding them.

Before reading about the actual exercises you can do at home without any equipment, check out this link to a Medicare site that tells how much money the program will provide for professional physical therapy:

Check with your primary-care doctor to find out if physical therapy can be helpful for you, and get a recommendation of places that work with people over 55.

Meanwhile, here are some movements you can start with to let your muscles know that working time has come around again.

Finger Wall Crawl

Stand close enough to a wall so that your fingers touch the wall when your lower arm is bent at a right angle. Starting with the pinkie, "crawl" your fingers up against the wall over and over again to raise your entire arm as high as it will go.

You may have to press hard against the wall to keep the fingers climbing. You may also feel a "stretch" in your triceps tendons under the upper arm. Repeat twice with each hand.

Knee Lifts

Lift one knee as high as you can and hold it for a slow count of five. Put knee down, foot on floor, and repeat with the other knee.

After two weeks of doing this once a day, increase the lift time to a count of 10. Support yourself by holding onto a doorknob or the edge of a sturdy desk or table.

'Good Morning' Stretch

This is a variation on an exercise called the "Good Morning," which is often done with a weighted bar balanced behind the neck on the shoulders.

With your arms hanging down, slowly bend your upper body over at the hips (not the waist). Keep your spine absolutely straight, don’t curve it. You will feel this stretch throughout your lower body in the calves and hamstrings.

Stretching the tendons of those two muscle groups will make the muscle rebuilding process much easier.

Wina Sturgeon is an active 65+ based in Salt Lake City, who writes about the science of anti-aging and staying youthful at

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