Physiquality has been looking a lot at fitness programs and products for older adults, so I suggested writing about the topic. I’ve been especially interested in this since my grandmother had a stroke last year and, more recently, fell and broke her wrist. I know that breaking your arm and wrist is the “gateway break” for hips and other, more devastating, injuries, so I’m always curious to know more about how to help her stay fit. (Thankfully, she’s an unusual senior; she typically walks a few miles every day and I’ve never seen her eat an egg yolk. Very health conscious.)
This was one of my more fortunate topics for information gathering — four of the five people to whom I sent questions replied, making the writing quite easy. I lined up their replies and got some great tips to pass along to Grandma.
Fitness for older adults and seniors
As we age, regular exercise is incredibly important for staying healthy. It reduces weight gain that would put additional strain on weakening bones. It helps to maintain your sense of balance, reducing the risk of falls and broken bones. And it also keeps your mind active; one study has even shown that higher levels of physical activity correlate to a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
So why do so many older adults and seniors remain sedentary? One challenge is that the older you get, the more difficult it is to change your habits. Joyce Klee, a physical therapist in the Physiquality network of experts, says, “Seniors can be resistant to change. They like being comfortable and knowing what to expect.” And if they have never exercised in the past, some feel that it’s pointless to start in their 60s or beyond. This is why Mark Salandra, founder of StrengthCondition.com, likes to remind his older clients that it’s never too late to get into shape, and that without strength or flexibility, they could easily lose their independence.
Older adults also frequently face a variety of health problems, some minor, some severe, that can feel like road blocks on the way to a healthier life. Stefania Della Pia, program director of education for STOTT PILATES®, points out that instructors “are often presented with a number of concurrent concerns that each have their own programming criteria.” The challenge for those working with older populations is to be prepared for a variety of these issues and to have a wide range of adaptations that will allow seniors to exercise, despite such challenges.