By November 22, 2020
While exercise is important at all stages of life, it may have the most significant effect on older adults, especially those 50 and above. As you age, your body undergoes several changes, many of which are degenerative and can be debilitating to your health.
But exercise can help slow these age-related health issues or even prevent them in the first place.
Osteoporosis, a degenerative skeletal disease that causes your bones to become weak and fragile, increases your risk for fractures, says Laureen McVicker, lead physical therapist at Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy.
This is especially true after menopause, when bone density can decrease more rapidly, McVicker says.
Weight-bearing exercises, which force your body to work against gravity, have been shown to be the best type for reducing your risk of bone fractures in old age, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Type II muscle fibers are responsible for explosive movements that require ample power — think sprinting, lifting a one-rep max squat, or jumping. Strengthening these muscles plays an important role in preventing falls in older people, McVicker says.
Less is usually more when you're just starting out, says Heather Jeffcoat, physical therapist and owner of Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy. And if you're rekindling an old exercise habit, less is still more.
"Use a lighter resistance, do fewer repetitions and walk a shorter distance than you did previously," Jeffcoat says, as this allows you to avoid overtaxing your muscles and joints and to see how your body responds to the extra activity.
"If you are working with a trainer, let them know that your first goal is to make sure you do not get injured," Jeffcoat says, noting that not all workouts need to be super intense to be effective.
Also, don't tweak too many factors at once, she says. You can primarily control three things that happen during your workout: the rep count, the weight and the types of exercises. Jeffcoat recommends only altering one factor at once, so you know the culprit if anything goes wrong.
For example, "If you experience pain the next day, but you added four new exercises and increased the weight of the other four exercises you were doing, it's difficult to assess where the problem lies," Jeffcoat says. "You have a lot of control with your workouts and shouldn't feel pressured to have a full routine one or two days in."
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