A regular exercise session can benefit multiple systems in your body.
Although I am a physical therapist, I am not your physical therapist. This information is for educational purposes. Always consult your personal physician or health care professional for individual advice. Please see the medical disclaimer.
A regular exercise routine is beneficial to more than just our muscles. Exercise can increase our strength, but it may also improve our posture, balance, heart health, reduce chronic pain, improve our mental/ cognitive health, and more! Performed correctly, a good exercise routine can help increase your mobility and decrease your risk of falling, as well as help you stay healthy. Many seniors I work with participate in a daily walking program. However there are a few other physical activities that provide important health benefits as well!
A great exercise session should take some planning. Here are some activities that should be included weekly:
CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE– Cardiovascular exercise improves blood flow to increase healing of tissues. As well, it decreases pain by releasing pain reducing chemicals in your brain when you exercise. If you are limited to your home, you could try marching in place, walking laps through the house or up and down the driveway, or using an exercise machine (bike, treadmill, etc) with good posture of course! American Heart Association (2022) recommends 150 minutes per week, but also states that breaking it up into short sessions is still beneficial to your heart and lungs. I encourage clients to find a set time(s) of day, use a timer for accuracy, and a list to check it off – for positive feedback and help with developing a habit.
Don’t just stop with cardio or walking- make sure to include the following as well:
STRETCHING– Tight muscles may put stress on joints and contribute to pain. Stretching programs have been found to help improve posture and normalize our movement patterns- helping to relieve pain. Perform stretches after a short (5 min) warm up, and in good alignment. Stretches should be slow (15-30 seconds) and gentle, with no forced motion or bouncing. Stretching should not cause significantly increased pain or pain that radiates. I usually recommend 3-5 repetitions of each muscle group. Try deep breathing throughout to help relax your muscles.
STABILIZING– Strengthening posture and core trunk muscles is important to help with proper form and minimizing joint pain. Perform core exercises slowly, focusing on good postural alignment and control.
See this post for Back Stretches and Core Exercise
STRENGTHENING– Resistance exercises should be performed 2-3 times per week. You can use bands, weights, or barbells. Perform these exercises slowly with good control, especially with lowering. Don’t allow sloppy movements, and don’t push through joint pain.
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See this post for Low Cost Home Exercise Strengthening Equipment
BALANCE EXERCISE-Balance exercises should be performed regularly (3 times per week) and with some variety and challenge. Balance exercises should challenge your ankles, hips, and stepping reactions (safely). If you perform them regularly with variety and challenge. you should see improvement, but be patient: studies show that it may take 3-6 months to see definite results. But long term, it can make a huge difference in your mobility and reduce your fall risk.
10 Tips to make the most of each exercise session:
- Hydration- drink water and stay hydrated especially if you are exercising outdoors, or at high intensity.
- Eat nutritious foods, but don’t work out right after eating a heavy meal. Give your body time to digest the food before you exercise.
- Don’t stretch cold muscles.
- Ease into your workout, and cool down at the end.
- Add variety to your routine- it is good for physical and cognitive improvement.
- Follow photos or checklists to stay organized.
- Keep a record of your routine for positive feedback, but also to allow you to track any activities that cause pain or discomfort.
- Take your time and perform your exercises safely and in good form. I always tell my clients I would rather see 8 good repetitions than 20 sloppy ones:)
- Get guidance form a professional if you don’t know where to start. You can always work with a Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer for a few sessions just to establish a home program. Prevent injury by doing things correctly from the beginning!
10. Don’t be discouraged if you are not able to exercise at intense levels! Even moderate activity will help improve your mobility and decrease fall risk.
What other tips or techniques do you use for your exercise routine? I would love to hear from you!
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