Fit for Any Age

by Peter Morel C.F.C., C.I.C., C.P.T.

As we age, Father Time imposes a few physical constraints on us whether we like it or not. For someone with a disability, those age-associated hindrances can be especially unwelcome, particularly when they add to prosthetic or orthotic issues.

But Father Time beware. Recent years have witnessed a huge surge in interest for better health and fitness from the older segment of our population. Increasingly, the senior set is working to retire with good health so they can enjoy their golden years with vigor. For reasons involving mobility, physical stress, energy and strength requirements, and balance and posture, a good physical fitness program may arguably be of even greater significance to orthotic- or prosthetic-wearing seniors than to their able-bodied counterparts.

Here are some healthy tips for attaining and maintaining good physical fitness regardless of age. But whatever your condition, never begin any fitness program - home-based or community-based - without first consulting your family doctor.

  • Be sure to warm up properly to ensure your cardiovascular system is well prepared for the exercise to come and to cool down to prevent your heart rate from crashing after your workout is completed. Same goes for training with weights - be sure to warm up with light sets.
  • Be sure to keep your exercise program in perspective. Slow and steady wins the race. Rome wasn't build in a day. Never over-exert yourself. Overdoing it can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels.
  • Avoid saunas, steam baths, and hot tubs, especially after exercising they will increase your core temperature and in turn raise your blood pressure.
  • Never enter a competitive event without permission from your doctor.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme temperatures, high altitudes and during poor air quality warnings.
  • If at anytime you feel dizzy, faint or short of breath, stop the session and check with your doctor.
  • Be sure that any medications you're taking are safe with exercising (i.e., arthritis is commonly treated with NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which can cause dehydration and stomach upset while exercising).
  • Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your sessions. If you wait until you're thirsty to drink, it's already too late!
  • Your program goals should include improving your range of motion and strengthening joints. But never force a stretch in painful cases.
  • Keep your workouts short.
  • Medications before exercise should be avoided as they can mask pain and won't give you adequate feedback as to the proper level of intensity.
  • Rise slowly from seated or lying positions.
  • Bring any support aids you need like canes and crutches, etc.

Opposing Osteoporosis

Research tells us that weight bearing exercises can reduce the loss of bone mass, even for people who have osteoporosis. However, if your bone mass has become critically low, then weight training and weight-bearing exercises should be avoided. If you can exercise those bones, here's how:

  • Exercise machines will balance the weight for you and provide proper form which will in turn reduce the chance of injury.
  • If weight-bearing exercises are unsafe, use seated aerobics or pool exercises.
  • Always be careful not to overdo it - hyper-extending your joints or spine could cause fractures.

Diabetes Defense

Persons with diabetes should work closely with their doctors, dietitian and fitness professionals in order to balance their stress levels. Levels of stress will effect insulin secretion. Other cautionary reminders:

  • Always keep simple carbohydrates on hand (candy, orange juice, etc.).
  • A diabetic's sensitivity to temperature will affect blood circulation.
  • Avoid exercises that significantly increase your blood pressure... this can cause retinal problems.
  • People with diabetes are at increased risk of muscular injuries and foot ulcers, small cuts or blisters which can get infected. Be very conscientious and look to medical professionals before problems arise.

Until next time stay fit and be strong.