It’s just the pits. As we age, things just start to ache more. And as they start to ache more, we become less active and our fitness levels can go down as a result.
We spoke with HPRC Therapist Karen Lynn about steps that we can take to increase our physical fitness and about the overall health benefits this can provide. In addition to increasing your overall physical health, physical fitness can improve cognitive function. It can help increase alertness, decrease depression and anxiety, improve sleep and slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Before anyone starts a new fitness program, see your doctor to make sure you choose the best program for what your body can execute effectively. After you start the program, allow about four weeks for the exercise habit to kick in. We’ve all done the start and stop and gotten so frustrated we want to throw in the towel. STICK WITH IT!
- Start slowly, cut yourself a break in the beginning. You aren’t going to go from 0 to 60 in three days! Build up to more rigorous exercise as your fitness level starts to increase.
- Mix it up! Include a variety of exercises that help with cardio, balance, flexibility and strength.
- Lastly, always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or you start to feel ill, call your doctor immediately.
Tips to Keep the Program Going
Often, exercise is just plain not fun. Find something that is FUN for you. It’s possible…just think outside of the box a bit!
- Make it fun – Choose something that you look forward to – even walking along a local trail is a great start. Find a ballroom dancing class to go to or an aquatics class if you love to be in the pool!
- Make it social – Join a group of friends for a hike, bike ride or walk in addition to going out for dinner and drinks. It’s a lot more fun when you’re in it together!
- Make it an adventure – Get out of the gym and explore a different environment. For example, instead of plain yoga or jogging try a yoga retreat or a bike ride along a trail.
- Keep fueling your body with food – Exercise is going to become easier if you are fueling it with nutrient-dense food.
How Can We Encourage Our Parents?
Some of you reading this may have parents you want to encourage to start moving more.
As children, we want to see our parents live as long and as comfortable of a life as possible. To encourage them to exercise, we can remind them that being strong, flexible and having good balance can help them remain independent at home longer. Not having consistent physical activity can lead to falls, which can be very serious for the elderly.
Encourage them to use the buddy system and work out with friends. If you live close by you could even work out with them. Encourage your parents to state fitness goals such as playing in the yard with grandkids, walking a race with their daughter or being able to climb the stairs at home. We are happy to help you put a plan in place based on those goals.
How Can PT Help
Physical therapists are ‘movement experts’ in the health field. A PT can offer guidance with increasing mobility, strength and independence through a program designed around a thorough physical exam. The program will include considerations of health issues and concerns of the client and can safely get them on the road to being more healthy and happy.
As you can see, there are many ways older people can maintain or become physically fit. They just need to have a plan, have some goals and an understanding of the importance this can have on their quality of life, now and in the future.