The human body goes through a number of changes, as one grows older. A decline in muscle mass and bone density can lead to muscle fatigue and joint pain. It is common for seniors to experience a degree of fear and apprehension prior to exercise.
There is good news. Seniors can remain physically active and lead happy, healthy and productive lives with the help of physical therapy. Exercise in a safe, controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist goes a long way in improving quality of life.
Although there are physical limitations associated with aging, the human body can always respond, adapt and grow stronger as long as it is challenged. Physical activity combined with healthy nutrition is important to maintaining health and vitality for older individuals.
A physical therapist can design an exercise program to help seniors deal with some of the consequences associated with aging, which include:
1. Increased risk of falls — Falls can occur due to a loss in the body’s ability to maintain balance, posture, and equilibrium. A physical therapist can create an exercise program to improve muscle tone, strength, joint movement, and balance. This can prevent dangerous consequences like broken bones, allowing seniors to stay active and healthy.
2. Pain and discomfort of arthritis — Joint wear and tear can result in osteoarthritis. This leads to joint pain and swelling, which can restrict movement. Physical therapy includes a variety of treatment options including hot and cold treatments, massages, and range of motion exercises. Splints and custom made orthotic devices can also help.
3. Incidence of strokes — A stroke can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Mobility, speech, memory, and vision can be affected. An exercise program to improve mobility and independence is an essential component of stroke prevention and treatment.
4. Onset of Alzheimer’s disease — This is an irreversible condition that can be associated with old age. It gets progressively worse once it starts. Physical therapists can help maintain the patient’s quality of life by providing exercises to maintain strength and mobility.
5. Osteoporosis — This is a condition characterized by thinning bones that become brittle and prone to fractures. Physical therapy prescribed weight training exercises to increase bone density and improve muscle strength are a cornerstone of prevention.
No one can escape the consequences of aging. However, every single person can plan ahead and maintain strength and mobility to age gracefully. The best way to stay active and healthy is to challenge the bones, joints and muscles in a controlled, progressive manner. That’s why physical therapy is crucial for individuals of all ages, especially seniors.
Remain positive, and ask your physical therapist about the right and the wrong way to exercise. Challenge your body in a safe, yet progressive manner. Instead of saying “Will this hurt me?”, you should be asking yourself “How can I do this safely and how can I remain active?”
While physical therapy cannot reverse aging, it can certainly help you age gracefully, and live a happy, healthy and productive life as the years go by. We can offer you a range of exercises and other treatment options to keep your mind and body feeling younger than you may realize. You can always call or stop by our office to receive a free book related to managing arthritis and other age related conditions. We look forward to working together with you towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Daniel Skulavik, PT, DPT, OCS, is with Advanced Physical Therapy located in the Food Lion Shopping Center, Clinton.