Part One of Two

The year is ending and many of us are thinking about beginning the New Year with a fresh start.  Getting in better shape is often an area that many of us think about.  But, there are also many excuses that we use that prevent us from becoming more active.  Being older is one reason many of us use to avoid exercise and activity to help us get fit.

There are plenty of myths that get passed around regarding being older and getting exercise.

I haven’t exercised my whole life; it’s too late to start.

It is never too late.  It isn’t about lifting 200# or running a marathon.  Your body can always learn from physical activity and movement. Multiple scientific studies across multiple disciplines demonstrate that activity increases strength, endurance, balance and cognition (memory).

I shouldn’t run anymore.

If you haven’t run in a while don’t go out and run 3 miles.  But you can start a walking program and build running intervals in gradually.  Regular runners don’t have to stop; running helps the heart and the mind. Studies show no evidence that people who run regularly have any more joint issues, such as arthritis, than those that do.  The speed and length of the run may change as people age, but if running isn’t causing issues than it is a great way to stay fit.

Walking is enough.

Walking is a great basic exercise that most people find enjoyable.  But the body needs to be pushed to grow stronger.  Many times walkers are moving too slowly to get benefits from it. Try building in some intervals; short bursts of fast walking or even light jogging, for 30 seconds to one minute with 2-3 minutes of walking at your comfortable speed in between the intervals.

Lifting weights is bad for my joints.

Quite the opposite!  Weights are important to help the body stay strong.  The key is using proper form, and not overloading the amount of weight you are lifting.  Long-term bone health and general body strength has been shown to indicate independence in older adults.  There is little evidence that lifting a safe amount of weight with proper form harms the joints.

You can’t fix poor balance.

Just like other forms of fitness, the more you challenge your balance the “stronger” it gets.  Being steady on your feet helps you avoid falls which can have a huge impact on your independence and mobility.

I am inflexible, I have to accept that.

A tight body has to do with our genetics, in other words it can be “passed down.” The reality is that anyone can improve on what they have inherited by doing regular stretches, yoga or Pilates.

As always, if you haven’t been getting regular physical activity in a while, check with your health care provider to make sure it is safe to start. Physical Therapists are trained to help people move better, safely improve fitness including strength, balance and overall health.  If you would like to work with a Physical Therapist on these issues, see your medical provider and ask for a referral to a physical therapist. PTs can help you get moving and keep you healthy.

 

For additional questions, please contact the Physical Therapy Department, North Country Hospital Rehabilitation, 334-3260.

 

Reference:  Feiereisen, S. Readers Digest. Retrieved from: https://www.rd.com/health/fitness/myths-shouldnt-believe-fitness-after-50/

Submitted by Katesel Strimbeck PT, MS is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at North Country Hospital.  Katesel has been a practicing PT for 20 years. She is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).