YOU PHYSICALLY FIT? DOES AGE MATTER?
by Dr. Brian S. Seaman, DC, FCCSS(C), FICC
Physical fitness what does it mean
Generally it varies with each individual
and changes with age. For the most of us, we think about
a healthy heart and keeping our weight at a reasonable
level. When we are younger, the levels of fitness are
higher. So are our individual expectations and goals.
In our 20s and 30s one may aspire to complete
a triathlon or run a marathon. As we mature
(politically correct term for growing older)
our thoughts focus on our overall health and well being.
With this in mind, I will talk in this article about
the three Ws walking, water
and weights. Sounds pretty simple, doesnt it?
Actually it is!
I have written previously about the benefits of walking
on a regular basis. This helps to burn off calories,
tone the muscles of our hips and legs, and gives our
heart a good workout as well. It is very important as
we grow older (or more mature) to ensure
that we provide our cardiovascular system (thats
our hearts, lungs and circulation) with a good workout
on a regular basis.
Walking briskly at least three times
a week for 30 to 40 minutes is a good way in which to
benefit our bodies. Daily would be best but there
are times when three times a week can be a challenge.
This is especially true in the Winter when snow, ice
and cold weather are a challenge for even the most dedicated
and devoted fitness fan.
When the weather becomes a challenge,
its time to consider moving indoors for a while
maybe join one of the walking clubs which many
of the local malls establish.
Walking is an excellent way to get fit, stay healthy
and even spend some time with your friends. If you have
not walked in a while start off slowly. If you have
been very physically inactive, or if you have any significant
health problems (especially involving the heart, lungs
or circulation) be sure to check with your family physician
or health care professional. In addition to a physical
examination, you may need some blood work, chest x-rays
and perhaps an EKG.
There are really two messages here. The first one is
to ensure that you drink lots of water everyday
most people do not do this. Water is very important
to our health and well-being for digestion, kidney function
and bladder function not just to quench our thirst.
If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Remember
our parents saying to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
You should! Sometimes it is easier to have a specific
water container and just fill it up to ensure that you
drink enough every day. Remember that tea, coffee and
alcoholic beverages do not count for fluid intake. In
fact they all dehydrate your body.
The second message with respect to water
is exercise. Swimming is probably one of the most common
exercises which we recommend for patients. Generally,
the front crawl, backstroke and sidestroke are ideal
as these do not cause any increased strain in the lower
back. Unfortunately, the breast stroke (which many of
us do) does have a tendency to put additional strain
on the lower back joints of the spine. Using a flutter
board can give your shoulders a break and also modify
your workout by increasing the amount of variation in
exercise you can use for your hips and legs. Remember
to kick from your hips and not your knees.
Alternatively, a lot of my patients are
using water aerobics as a means to increase their fitness
level. These can be done in a shallow pool or in the
deep end of a pool with a water vest. This will generally
keep the head, neck and top part of your torso up out
of the water. Another alternative method would be running
in deep water while wearing a water vest. This is especially
beneficial if you are experiencing lower limb joint
pain or recovering from an injury (ie. ankle or knee).
Remember to hydrate yourself with water
(drink some water) after you have been in the water!
Even though you are not aware of sweating, you do need
to replenish your fluids after exercising at the pool.
Weight training as we get older? Yes, it can be very
beneficial not only for helping to maintain our strength
and muscle tone but also more importantly it can help
your bone density. Weight bearing exercises (like walking)
or weight training exercises (like hand weights and
the gym) can help to maintain the density of our bones.
Unfortunately swimming is not as effective as it is
not weight bearing but it does provide resistance in
the water and is much easier on arthritic joints.
If you are concerned about your bone
density, speak to your health care professional. Arrangements
can be made to establish a base-line bone density study
to allow for future comparison.
Bone density studies use the non-dominant
hip as well as the lower back. There are levels of bone
density as established by the World Health Organization
(WHO), which are called the T-scores. The numbers are
compared to peak bone mass and will establish if you
are in the normal range, osteopenic (some bone loss)
or osteoporotic. Bone density studies can also establish
the degree of osteoporosis as well as providing comments
on the risk of fracture in the future. Sometimes, your
family physician will advise medications such as Actonel,
Fosamax or Didrical which help to restore some bone
density if you have lost some to a significant degree.
Back to weights if you have never
done resistance training before, be sure to check with
your health care professional. There may be some old
knee or shoulder problems which should be taken into
consideration in selecting your exercises.
In general, light weights and higher
reps would be the way to go. Make an appointment with
a medical exercise specialist or an experienced personal
trainer to help develop your routine. Keep it short
and specific to your needs and goals.
Make exercise and fitness part of your daily routine.
Drink plenty of water.
Most importantly, have fun with it!
Reprinted with permission of
The Seniors' Advocate. P.O. Box 5005, Waverly, Nova
Scotia, B2R 1S2
download a printer friendly version