Fitness after 50 with physical therapy


By Dan Skulavik - Contributing columnist



As we go through different stages in life, from childhood, adolescence and adulthood into our senior years, it becomes even more important to adopt a healthy lifestyle. As they say, prevention is always better than cure. As one grows older, there are changes in the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, endocrine systems. Some common conditions and illnesses include:Mental health issues, Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, musculoskeletal disorders, and chronic diseases (heart disease, respiratory diseases and diabetes).

By addressing common risk factors and improving overall health and wellness, it is possible to maintain and enhance the quality of life as one grows older. Healthy eating, physical activity, avoiding smoking, conservative use of alcohol and the practice of mental wellness can reduce or even prevent common diseases.

A physical therapist can help you improve your health and wellness with a well-balanced exercise and injury prevention program. It is never too late to start a health and fitness program. Progressive exercise can increase strength, improve flexibility and boost quality of life for individuals of all ages.

Here are some tips for improving mobility and pain management for seniors:

1. After a comprehensive initial evaluation to assess your current fitness levels (and goals), a progressive exercise program consisting of isometric or isotonic exercises can be prescribed by your physical therapist.

2. For individuals diagnosed with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, ask a physician if exercise is right for you, and then contact a physical therapist.

3. Consult a nutritionist for advice on a healthy eating plan. Calorie restriction is an essential part of weight loss.

4. Make a conscious effort to walk (or be more active) around the house and at work.

5. Identify exercises that you enjoy and do them as often as your body allows. A little bit of soreness for a day or two is a good thing, but contact your physical therapist if you feel any sharp pain that gets worse.

6. Invest in comfortable footwear. This will encourage you to walk, exercise more and reduce the risk of injuries to the joints.

To prevent injuries and to have the best possible experience, it is important for seniors to consult with a physical therapist. The physical therapist will evaluate your current capabilities and take medical conditions and medications (among other things) into consideration.

Fall prevention in particular, is an important precaution. The therapist will use several procedures and modalities to promote the healing and rehabilitation of muscles, bones and joints. Some of them include: Ultrasound to heal connective tissue (tendons and ligaments), Manual therapy which includes mobilizations, manipulations and massage, Resistance training to boost muscle strength, Cold compress for acute injuries and heat to relax muscular spasms, Functional electrical stimulation to restore muscle strength, and the use of tape to support muscles and joints.

The sooner you work with a physical therapist, the better. If you or someone you know is over the age of 50, advise them to take steps to be proactive about their health. You can call us at any time to learn more about what physical therapy can do for you.

Dan Skulavik is the physical therapist at Advanced Physical Therapy in the Food Lion shopping center.

By Dan Skulavik

Contributing columnist

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Dan Skulavik is the physical therapist at Advanced Physical Therapy in the Food Lion shopping center.

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