|Fitness for Older People
Medical evidence shows that if you keep physically fit by
exercising regularly you increase your chances of living a healthier
life - feeling well, looking well, staying mobile and independent.
Physiotherapists encourage elderly people to keep active
with sensible exercises suited to their age and physical
Exercise increases the heart rate, building up the heart
muscle, and increasing oxygen supply to the body. The improved
circulation helps give a feeling of well-being. Exercise helps to
prevent stiffness in the joints and builds up the strength of
surrounding muscles. If older people are physically inactive, the
tendency towards stiffening with age is much more likely to happen.
The general tone of your body improves with exercise. You feel
firmer, fitter and more energetic. Exercise can also improve your
ability to cope with stress and improve your quality of sleep.
|Am I Too
No body is too old for exercise. The degree of exercise will
differ depending on the individual's level of fitness and any health
problems. Some seventy-year-olds climb mountains - others the same
age will be limited to much more gentle forms of exercise. The
important thing is to maintain as much activity as your body will
allow. Your physiotherapist can advise you on suitable activities.
Am I Too Sick?
particularly concerned with older people who have a condition which
limits them physically e.g. arthritis, stroke, a fracture. These
people need special encouragement and assistance with their
exercises. Restoring and maintaining mobility is a vital part of
their rehabilitation programme.
|Where Do I Start? |
You need an exercise
programme tailored to suit your level of fitness. Before starting
out on a new fitness programme, it is advisable to see your doctor
for an overall check. A physiotherapist can assess you physically
and give you advice on the best forms of exercise.
|What is Best?
Increasing your fitness level means being able to do more
with less effort. Remember:
Simple forms of activity should not be forgotten.
Increasing your cardio-respiratory rate is important:
||incorrect exercises can be worse than no exercise
right exercises need to be done correctly and regularly
||monitor your progress e.g. check for improved
walking times or increased distances
||always warm-up and end with some muscle stretches -
this helps prevent injury and stiffness
||wear sensible, comfortable clothes and shoes when
||check your pulse rate during exercise and recovery
to make sure you are not over- exerting yourself. |
Walking - a basic, pleasant and
effective activity - pace yourself, but the walk should be brisk
enough to increase your heart rate.
Swimming - an excellent form of general
exercise which is not too hard on your body, but allows for plenty
of movement with buoyancy - wonderful for bad backs or stiff joints.
For those who cannot manage the cold or normal swimming conditions,
hydrotherapy pools are recommended.
Cycling - a low impact choice with no
jarring on joints - an outdoor social activity or indoors on an
||Check to see if your pulse rate returns to normal
within 5 minutes of finishing your activity
careful of overheating or dehydrating during exercise
||Proper rest is essential
not overdo it - watch for recurring or persisting pain
concerned, seek early professional attention from a
Hand-in-hand with exercise is diet. Attention
to the food you eat makes a great deal of difference to general
health. A proper diet gives you the energy for exercise. Avoid
constipation - this makes you feel listless and heavy. As you get
older you generally find you need less to eat and your appetite may
diminish. Be careful not to become lax about your eating habits such
as missing meals or not choosing a balance of protein, fibre and
A common problem for
older women is osteoporosis - a condition which involves a loss of
bone density. It often affects the spine, causes shrinkage in
height, poor posture and backache. Research has shown that exercise
is important in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Physiotherapist Can Help
trained specifically on physical aspects of the human body. They are
highly qualified to advise you on an individual graded exercise
programme and help you monitor your progress. In some areas,
physiotherapists run special fitness classes for the elderly. Check
with your local branch of the Australian Physiotherapy Association.
Physiotherapists in private practice are listed
in the Yellow Pages. Members of the Australian Physiotherapists
Association (APA) are bound by a professional Code of Ethics and
have access to extensive postgraduate education programmes. Check
for the initials M.A.P.A. after the physiotherapist's name.
You may consult a
physiotherapist either directly or by referral from your medical
practitioner. Rebates for treatment costs are available under higher
table health insurance schemes.
Australian Physiotherapy Association