One of the refreshing things we’ve learned this Healthy Aging Month is that healthy aging–and living in general–is a lot simpler than it sometimes seems. The things that help us feel our best when we’re young do the same when we’re old: adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are the foundation of any healthy lifestyle.
But for older adults, it’s true that the body behaves differently than it once did. For example, stiffness can become more common in the ankles, back, and shoulders. This affects other parts of the body as well. If one part of the body can’t do its job, the rest of the body will find a way to make up for that. This means potential pain in parts of the body that are compensating for chronic stiffness or pain.
Good Feet talked to Laura Evans, PT, DPT of Therapeutic Associates Sherwood Physical Therapy to learn more about the aging body and how to keep it healthy. Laura says exercise and staying limber are some of the best ways to ensure healthy aging, and offered a few tips to keep in mind.
Starting is the hardest part of any task, and many people who begin integrating exercise into their routine notice soreness during the first few weeks. Some, believing this soreness is damaging, dial back their exercise. But soreness can be expected during the initial phases. Of course, be sure to stay on top of any sharp or unusual pains.
Also, know your limits. Laura notes “some adults are afraid of using exercise machines [such as treadmills and ellipticals] because they are worried about falling or injuring themselves and opt for exercises that can be done while seated.” But many folks are capable of doing standing exercises, which can successfully prolong mobility.
For those whose mobility makes standing exercises challenging, the pool is another option. Pool exercises can be helpful for those who cannot bear their body weight comfortably. The buoyancy of the pool helps reduce body weight, which allows for more stretching and exercising opportunities.
In a relatively short amount of time, you can feel improvements throughout your body. Laura says “getting your heart rate up increases endorphins, reduces pain, and gets your body primed for more exercise.” It may not feel good the first few times, but as your ability increases, your enjoyment of the activity will too.
As we all know, exercise for the sake of exercise can sometimes be boring. Fortunately, there are opportunities for older adults to find a fitness regimen that fits their lifestyle. Silver Sneakers is a national program that is covered by many insurances and offers numerous exercise classes, from tai chi and weightlifting to sessions tailored entirely to arthritis concerns.
Healthy aging isn’t brain surgery, but it does require dedication. That dedication, though, has the potential to have tremendous benefits. Whether you enjoy swimming, walking, or group fitness classes, there are many ways to live your best life at every age.