Staying Fit Through the Decades: A Guide to Fitness for Adults by William J. Smith, MS, MEPD, CSCS
For most people, aerobic or cardiovascular exercise tends to be the most approachable and convenient choice in their fitness program. However, exercises that emphasize stability, flexibility, movement/coordination, and proper postural alignment tend to be lower on the list.
As we age, our bodies undergo various changes. These physical transformations challenge us to find activities that enhance and stimulate our innate movement needs which are needed throughout our activities of daily living (ADLs), as well as providing us with a sense of physical fulfillment.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Stability: Can you stand on one leg for several seconds? Can you hold your own body weight off the ground (i.e. modified or regular pushup position)?
2. Flexibility: Do you have trouble with simple tasks, such as reaching behind a seat in the car to pick up a briefcase or bag? Can you look over your shoulder without turning your upper body?
3. Movement and Coordination: Walking, the most basic of human movements, requires proper coordination between opposite sides of the body. As we age, we begin to lose the ability to plantar flex (push forward using the calf muscles), which leads to posture deterioration, stride length decreases, and really tight calf/arch muscles! Feel your body as you walk and make mental notes.
4. Posture: Take a look at your posture in the mirror. Are the shoulders rolled forward? Hips rolled under the lower back? Noticeable decrease in calf muscle tone? All are factors that can be addressed with corrective exercise therapy.
OBSTACLES…OR JUST HURDLES?
The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has identified several criteria that are important to consider when beginning an exercise program. Here are some tips to help overcome common fitness obstacles:
Obstacle: Declining strength (i.e. muscles decrease in strength)
What you can do: Use your endurance. A recent study has shown that while muscle strength decreases with age, muscle endurance does not. You may benefit from working muscles longer – doing more repetitions – with lighter weights. Exercises that emphasize endurance, such as swimming, walking or biking, may be more enjoyable and beneficial for you than those that require great strength.
Obstacle: Arthritis or other conditions that make moving difficult
What you can do: You can, and should, still exercise. Ask your doctor or physical therapist how to use a cane, rollator (rolling walker) or other assistive device. These can be especially helpful if you’re recovering from a joint replacement, or a serious illness such as stroke or cancer.
Obstacle: A history of inactivity
What you can do: Get started on the path to fitness by using everyday activities as exercise. Recent studies have shown that “functional exercises,” those that mimic actual daily activities such as walking up stairs and getting in and out of chairs, are most effective for you.
Obstacle: Chronic pain and inflammation
What you can do: Choose low impact activities to keep moving and minimize pain. Experts believe that certain types of exercise can reduce joint stiffness, pain and inflammation associated with arthritic conditions that affect more than 40 million Americans. Activities such as walking, swimming and water-based exercise are generally effective and well tolerated.
Once you’ve identified your needs, choose the best type of fitness professional for your situation.
Next time you head to your local fitness facility, ask a fitness professional to assist you with the development of an exercise program. Active adults should bring up the following questions relating to their exercise program:
1. General Checklist of Questions to Ask your Fitness Trainer:
What certificates do you hold?
Is this a part-time job?
How long have you been a part of this organization?
What motivates you as a trainer?
Do you live what you teach?
2. Specific Fitness Program Questions to Ask your Fitness Trainer:
Are my special needs (Knee replacement, Arthritic Condition, Vertigo, etc) being taken into consideration?
Is the program multi-faceted (4-component model)?
Does this exercise program take into consideration my active interests (golf, bowling, etc)?
Is the same fitness trainer available to assist regularly? If not, how will my exercise program progress with another trainer?
By identifying strengths and weaknesses, and working with a fitness professional, you’ll be able to effectively adapt your fitness regiment through the years.
WILLIAM SMITH, MS, NSCA, CSCS, MEPD, completed his B.S. in exercise science at Western Michigan University followed by a master’s degree in education and a post-graduate program at Rutgers University. In 1993, Will began coaching triathletes and working with athletes and post-rehab clientele. He was a Division I Collegiate Strength Coach and has been competing in triathlons and marathons since 1998, recently finishing the Steelhead Half Ironman in Michigan in 5 hours and 22 minutes. Will founded Will Power and Fitness Associates and currently consults for fitness, healthcare, and wellness centers in New York and New Jersey. The Director of the Professional Development Institute, Will has also co-authored the definitive guide to triathlon training, Tri Power. He is also the author of several books in the popular Exercises For series including Exercises for Heart Health, Exercises for Back Pain, Exercises for Brain Health, and many others.