“I’m 79 and I need to find a safe but effective way to exercise to reduce my knee pain, improve my balance and help me to get stronger”
*Always check with your doctor before beginning any fitness or exercise program*
About half of the physical decline associated with ageing is believed to be due to lack of physical activity. It has been suggested that people over the age of 65, more than any other age group, require adequate fitness levels to help maintain activities of daily living, recover from illness and reduce the increased risk of disease.
But the good news is that it is never too late to improve your fitness! The human body responds to exercise, no matter what its age, and there are multiple health benefits:
Muscle: muscle size and strength starts to decrease from middle age, and in particular the muscles that control speed and quick reaction seem to be the most affected. However there is also evidence to suggest that much of these changes are related more to a sedentary lifestyle, rather than simply age, and muscle mass can increase in the older person after regularly exercising for a relatively short period of time. Stronger muscles provide joint stability (which prevents or reduces joint pain and development of osteoarthritis), and are essential to maintain good balance skills.
Bone: our bone density begins to decline after the age of 40, and as a result of bone loss, older people become more prone to bone fractures. Weight-bearing exercise can improve bone health and strength, helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Heart and lungs: cardiorespiratory fitness takes longer to achieve in an older person than a young person, but the physical benefits are similar. Regardless of age, people are able to improve their cardiorespiratory fitness through regular moderate intensity exercise.
Joints: our joints require regular movement to remain supple and healthy. In particular, people with arthritis can benefit from muscle strengthening exercise programmes to provide joint stability and prevent or reduce joint pain and onset of osteoarthritis.
Body fat: carrying too much body fat is associated with a range of diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Regular exercise burns calories, increases muscle mass and speeds the metabolism. Together, these physiological changes help an older person maintain an appropriate weight for their height and build.
To maintain and promote healthy aging and improve functional ability you should aim to include these 4 types of fitness:
Aerobic fitness: your muscles need a good oxygen supply to work, and regular moderate intensity exercise keeps your heart, lungs and blood vessels in good shape to deliver oxygen to your muscles. This means you are less likely to become tired from everyday activities and are more likely to remain independent into old age. Aerobic fitness requires exercises that use your large muscle groups (like your legs) that will increase heart rate for an extended period of time. Aerobic training includes exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing. NHS guidelines for adults aged 65+ who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility should try to be active daily and should do at least 150 minutes of moderate* aerobic activity such as cycling or walking every week *moderate activity will raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster and feel warmer; if you’re exercising at a moderate level is if you can still talk but can’t sing the words to a song.
Muscle fitness: this includes muscle strength and muscle endurance. Muscle fitness exercises need to work all of your major muscles, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Muscle strength is the amount of effort your muscles can exert at one time. Muscle strength is required to get up from the floor or from a low chair, lift shopping, to maintain balance, and to provide stability to your joints. All of these can become an issue in later years if prolonged inactivity causes you to lose muscle. Fortunately the right type of activity really can help you regain lost muscle, however old you are! Muscle endurance is required to perform any activity repeatedly, for example to walk or to climb a flight of stairs without stopping.
Flexibility: this is the ability to move your joints through their full range of motion. Flexibility is important to perform daily activities with relative ease – activities most of us take for granted, like getting out of bed, putting on socks and lifting all require flexibility. Flexibility is also important when exercising in order to complete movements without incurring injury to muscles, tendons and ligaments. Unfortunately flexibility tends to decrease with age, inactive lifestyles and poor postural habits, however it can be maintained by staying active and stretching regularly.
Balance: this is the ability to maintain your body in its upright position while moving, and is essential for normal daily activities. Good balance is also essential to avoid falling if you trip – falling is the leading cause of accidental injury in people over 65; falling commonly causes fractures, particularly if you have osteoporosis.
Applied Pilates – how can we help?
Using the Applied Pilates method we create a safe way for you to exercise to improve muscle fitness and joint flexibility, help reduce joint pain, improve balance and make you feel stronger. But every individual arrives with different degrees of strength, fitness, flexibility, balance depending on age, genetics, type of daily activities, and these cannot be improved by giving everyone a generic routine. This is why Applied Pilates is different.
During your initial assessment and your subsequent exercise sessions we actively assess your strength, flexibility and balance, both at rest and during movement. This tells us which of your muscles need strengthening, which muscles need to be more flexible, how mobile your major joints are and how good your balance is, and from this we develop your personal Applied Pilates routine. Applying the right exercises strengthens the muscles that stabilise your joints and improves flexibility of tight muscles. This provides balanced muscles on each side of your joints for stability and balance, and improves the range of movement in those joints.
Osteolates – how can we help?
Osteolates soft tissue treatment techniques can prepare the muscles so they are able to respond to and maximise the benefits of doing the right Applied Pilates exercises.
During a fitness and flexibility improvement programme it is essential for us to get the correct balance between flexibility and strengthening to achieve stability at each major joint. For example tight muscles at the front of your thigh can result in compression, pain and arthritis of the knee joint and we can use Osteolates treatments to reduce the muscle tightness and compression of the joint.
Or, where a joint has already become painful from wear and tear the nervous system begins to inhibit some muscles around the joint to avoid pain. The remaining functioning muscles begin to dominate and “guard” the joint, creating more misalignment, increasing instability, pain and dysfunction. Here we use Osteolates techniques to redress the imbalance and specifically to increase circulation in the area to reduce pain, to relax tight and guarding muscles, and to activate inhibited muscles.
Additionally for those not previously used to exercise, your muscles may have become fibrotic (losing their elasticity) we can use Osteolates treatments alongside your new exercise routine to accelerate improvement in muscle quality and maximise the benefits of your new Applied Pilates routine.
In summary, Osteolates provides a controlled way to resolve muscle, tendon and ligament issues that become apparent as your exercise programme progresses. We have found over the years that clients who combine Applied Pilates exercises with occasional Osteolates treatments improve more quickly.
Other advice we provide for you
We can advise you on how to manage painful joints and also help you to understand the exercise that for you is appropriate to your daily activities. This gives you realistic and appropriate objectives to help you improve and maintain your physical fitness safely and appropriate to your desired level of activity, be it to be able to walk to the local shop or to complete a round of golf.