5 Exercise Myths for People 55 and Older, according to Denver PT

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While
it’s proven that older people tend to slow down with age, the notion that
seniors should trade in their active lifestyles for bingo and rocking chairs is
definitely antiquated, says Denver Physical Therapist Patrick Donovan.

And
yet, when it comes to exercise for the active aging adult, plenty of myths
continue to drive people’s actions – or rater, inactions – when it comes to putting in the right amount of sweat
equity to stay healthy and active.

“From
a purely physiological perspective, sure, you’re going to start to slow down a
little here and there as you get older, but that doesn’t mean you should accept
the consequences of your age,” said Dr. Donovan, owner of Heather Lane
Physical Therapy in Denver. “We all have a biological
age and a physiological age. You may have knees of a 50-year-old, hips of a
60-year-old, and the balance of an 80-year-old. Your exercise routine should resolve
these physiological limitations. Regular exercise can strengthen your weakest
age-related area – whether that’s knee pain, hip pain, or balance.”

To
help encourage the 55-and-older crowd to make exercise a standard aspect of
their everyday lives, Dr. Donovan
provided a list of his top five exercise myths for older adults:

Myth 1:It’s Too Late to Start” – It doesn’t
matter what you’ve done before now, Dr. Donovan
says. Even if you’ve never had a regular exercise routine before, it’s never
too late to start. Exercising later in life can lower your risk of heart
disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Myth 2: “My Body’s Too Frail” (aka,
“I Might Break a Hip”) Unless a
medical physician has told you this based on a very specific condition, this is
likely fear talking. Not only does regular exercise help strengthen your body’s
stability, balance and flexibility, but Dr. Donovan
points out it can also reduce your risk of falling.

Myth 3: “I Have Joint Pain, so I
Should Stay Away from Exercise” –
Dr. Donovan says, Exercise
is like lubrication for the joints. A joint in motion will ward off stiffness
and fatigue. PTs are movement experts that can modify exercises based on other
conditions. For instance, if your wrists hurt during a wall push-up, then try
adding a towel roll to offload the pressure on your wrists.

Myth 4: “I’m Too Old for Weight
Training”
– Weight training, also known as resistance or
strength training, actually takes on a more critical role as you age. According
to Dr. Donovan, not only does a stronger body help seniors stay
upright and confident, but weight-bearing exercise is proven to prolong the onset
of osteoporosis by helping maintain bone density.

Myth 5: “I’m Better Off Focusing on
My Mind, Not My Body”
– Fact is, focusing on the body is focusing on the mind, says Dr. Donovan.
According to a research article published last month in Nature Medicine, exercise improves brain health, helps ward off
dementia, and is a front-line treatment for dementia.

According
to 2018 physical guidelines by the U.S. Department of Health, older adults
should shoot for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week,
plus weekly balance and muscle strengthening exercises. A search engine is a
great place for generalized treatment suggestions. But for unique recommendations
customized to your deficits and pain, find a Physical Therapist near you.

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