Written by Carol Cummings, BSN, RN, Certified Wellness Coach
Would you take a medicine that offers the following benefits?
- Lowers blood pressure
- Controls blood sugar
- Helps control weight
- Good for the heart
- Lowers cholesterol
- Relieves pain
- Improves sex
- Reduces falls
- Improves memory
- Enhances your immune system
- Improves bone strength
- Helps improve sleep
- Reduces stress
- Relieves constipation
- Good for most medical conditions
- Slows the aging process
- Makes you look better
- Has almost no side effects
- No insurance hassles
- Available for FREE!
More than likely your answer is yes. The good news is: there is such a medicine-and it’s called Movement. It really does have all of the benefits listed, and more. It is one of the most important things you can do for yourself to maintain and/or improve health. Most chronic conditions can be helped by moving and research suggests that the aging process can be slowed or even reversed through daily movement!
Brookdale Senior Living’s Optimum Life® initiative for 2008 is called Movement is Medicine and is designed to help you take advantage of the many opportunities at your community to become more active.
Recommendations for adults over 65
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have published recommendations based on available research for types and frequency of movement for older adults. They are:
- Moderately intense aerobic activity for 30 minutes on most days of the week. OR Vigorously intense
- activity for 20 minutes 3 days per week. (you can use the Modified Borg Scale-attached to determine if an exercise is moderate or strenuous)
- Strength training 2-3 times per week, 8-10 exercises, 10-15 repetitions
- Flexibility or stretching
- Balance exercise if you are at risk for falls
You should have a personalized activity plan that is made in conjunction with a health expert, especially if you have any health concerns.
It does not matter how old you are or what shape you are in now, you can benefit from increasing your level of activity. Research shows that your cells will age more slowly when you are active and that even those who are very frail can gain strength from exercise.
With all the evidence to support the benefits of daily movement, why don’t more people do it? Common reasons given along with suggestions for overcoming them are listed below:
Pain – This is a problem for many people. While it may seem counterintuitive-exercise is a good way to treat many painful conditions. Arthritis is a good example. The pain of arthritis is actually made worse by not moving. Pain in the joint may cause inactivity which leads to stiffness, which leads to increased pain, which leads to inactivity and so on. This cycle is broken through gentle exercise that increases circulation and strengthens the muscles surrounding an arthritic joint.
Fear of making a condition worse – In the past, it was a commonly held belief that people with certain conditions should not exercise. However, research has now confirmed the benefits of daily activity for most common medical conditions. It is important to check with your health care provider, and in some cases have supervised exercise sessions. But rarely is it better to be inactive.
Fatigue – Fatigue is another problem that is overcome by moving. In most cases it is the result of being out of shape. Build in frequent rest periods and start slowly. Over time you will begin to feel more energetic.
Fear of falling – Fear of falling can actually become a self fulfilling prophesy. The fear may make you tense and therefore less flexible. Fear is overcome through action. While it is true that many older adults are at risk for falling, the risk goes up with inactivity. You may have to begin with supervision and/or skilled therapy.
No time – You can break the 30 minute recommendation into 10 minute increments through out the day if necessary. Increments smaller than 10 minutes will not be as beneficial.
Shortness of breath – Check with your health care provider if you have shortness of breath. While it can be a symptom of heart or lung problems, in many cases shortness of breath with activity is related to being de-conditioned. Take your time and work up slowly, adding in frequent rest periods.
Movement can be fun!
While going to the gym or fitness center is certainly one way to achieve your 30 minutes per day of movement, there are many other less “conventional” ways to meet the guidelines. For instance, Nintendo’s Wii is the hottest new activity for seniors. The Wii is an interactive video game that simulates bowling, tennis, golf and other sports in which you actually simulate the movements of the sport with a hand held controller. Some communities are starting virtual bowling leagues. The game gives a surprisingly real sense of actually “being there” and can help you work up a sweat. Other fun ways to get moving include gardening, a walking group, yoga or a class in the pool.
Move to the music! Research suggests that ballroom dancing is one of the best leisure activities to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Combining music with activity can bring a new energy and interest to the most common movements. The right music almost demands that you move, and activity can take on a life of its own. Try playing some music with a good beat as you do chores at home; and put some dance moves in to your stride as you go about your daily routine.
Making Positive Change
We all know the law of inertia-an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted on by an outside force. If you are in that state of inertia, getting the energy to get moving can be the biggest battle. It may take the encouragement of a friend, the advice of a health care provider or the prospect of improving a condition with which you are dealing with.
What we know is that if you believe that you can achieve something and that it will have positive results, you are more likely to do it. One way to drive this belief is to be inspired by others who have done what you are considering doing. Talk with some people around you who are achieving what you want. Find out how they do it, and what they have gained from doing it. Next, talk with some trusted experts-your health care provider and/or an ISC therapist from your community. Getting encouragement from someone who you trust will help your motivation.
In the end, you should take the advice of the Nike folks and “Just do it”. Show up at an exercise class, get a pedometer and start walking, get up and walk around your chair during every TV commercial or take a longer route to the dining room. Do whatever it takes to get started. And have fun doing it! You won’t be sorry.
Carol Cummings, BSN, RN
Certified Wellness Coach
Brookdale Senior Living