Senior fitness: Plenty of dos and don'ts – Daily Independent
According to the Sandy and Dick Fortier, here are some basic dos and don’ts for senior fitness.
• Be consistent and committed to whatever exercise program you establish. Exercise needs to become part of your lifestyle
• Do an exercise regimen that includes the following forms of exercise: aerobic (for heart and lung health); strength (to preserve, protect and increase muscle tissue; and stretching (to maintain good flexibility and range-of-motion in joints).
• With regard to strength exercise, do a balanced workout. Don’t pick and choose the exercises you like, which will encourage muscle in-balances.
• Make sure you are properly informed on “form and technique” for all exercises, so that your workout remains safe, yet effective (research the exercises you are using, attend informational workshops, use a personal trainer).
• Don’t hire a Personal Trainer who has not been certified as a senior fitness specialist.
• Don’t compete with a workout buddy, with regard to weight, heart rate, or difficulty of an exercise
• Don’t continue with an exercise if you are experiencing “bad pain” (good pain is the feeling that you are using the muscle. This could be an ache or burn sensation: Bad pain is sharp — a glitch or an annoying feeling — that continues throughout the exercise)
• Don’t take Exercise Advise from other people in the gym, unless they are certified in exercise performance
• Don’t exercise on an empty stomach.
SUN CITY — Dick Fortier says a lot of seniors have a “used to” way of describing their exercise routine.
“I hear a lot of ‘I used to do this,’ and ‘I used to do that,’” Fortier said. “But they’re often describing workouts from when their bodies were much younger, or even five years ago.”
Fortier and his wife, Jane, are Get Fit for Life — the personal trainers who work directly with Sun City Recreation Centers clients. Since they’re seniors themselves, they know all the bad habits people form in exercising and how to replace those without positive routines.
Jane Fortier says everyone’s body changes — whether it’s those who are lifelong runners or those who rarely exercised as adults.
“These changes occur in an individual regardless of their level of fitness,” she said.
Rehabilitating an injury
Rehabbing after surgery or an injury and exercise are mutually exclusive, Jane Fortier says.
She said many personal trainers likely wouldn’t take on a client until all physical injuries are “brought to integrity.” Rehab assignments must be completed before a physical exercise program can begin, she said.
“We don’t really interact with many massage therapists about particular clients, but we do talk to a lot of physical therapists,” she said. “If someone’s had a joint replaced, that will involve an extensive consultation. We want to help, not harm. It could be that person is not meant to do that exercise.”
Dick Fortier points out most modern weight machines can be adjusted for a person’s size, strength and range of motion.
“After an injury or major surgery, you’re not the same person,” he said. “You often have to retrain muscle groups, body movements, even how your lungs get enough oxygen to your bloodstream.”
He said it’s important to closely follow all rehab or physical therapy instructions.
“Sometimes, we meet people who tell us their injury recovery isn’t where they want it to be,” Dick Fortier said. “And we ask them, ‘Are you following all the directions of your rehab?’ And the answer is no.”
What to look for
There are plenty of good practices to learn and bad habits to avoid for seniors in an exercise routine, among them what it means to be building muscle.
Jane Fortier’s definition of “good burn” is the kind of mostly-muscle discomfort or ache that sets in at the end of a workout and perhaps the hours and days thereafter.
“If you get a sharp pain in the middle of an exercise, you should stop, because you probably injured something,” she said. “If an issue comes up, respect the issue.”
“The old idea of ‘no pain, no gain’? That’s out the window,” Dick Fortier said. Jane Fortier also recommends staying tuned into your body during a workout, not focusing on other things.
“When exercising, it’s easy to slip into a mental to-do list, or listen to music, books or a podcast to take your mind off the physical demands you are putting on your body,” Jane Fortier said. “This approach can prove destructive if used on a regular basis. If you aren’t getting the results you want from your workout or seem to be in a monotonous whirlwind, it’s probably because you need to take a more ‘mindful approach’ to exercise.”
She said mindful exercise involves focusing on each individual movement during the workout. These movements are what help you achieve small goals and recalling small goals during exercise is a motivator to gaining larger ones.
“Studies reveal increased muscle activity when concentrating intently on the muscle being worked in a particular exercise,” she said.
Where to start
Jane Fortier said there are no “wrong” forms of exercise, though no exercise is safe and effective for every single person.
“The good aspect about those who’ve never even been in a gym is that they’re often an open slate, willing to try lots of things,” she said. “But they almost might be a little timid. Those who’ve had a workout routine in the past might have developed bad habits. There are, also, a few know-it-alls, but those folks don’t generally seek help of personal trainers.”
Many people struggle with the answer to one question: should they focus on aerobic exercises or strength training.
“The answer to this question is simple,” Jane Fortier said. “Aerobic and strength exercise are equally important. Because of physiological changes in every aging body, aerobic exercise and strength exercise become a necessity. They serve different purposes, each having an impact on the way we feel and the way that we function. A smart workout routine, for anyone over the age of 50, would include both Aerobic and Strength exercise.”
In a statement sent to the Daily Independent, Mesa-based Spark Performance & Physiotherapy said just because life is easier for seniors in 2022 than it might have been in earlier decades doesn’t mean health and fitness are no longer hard work.
“It still seems like the older generation has a stigma against exercising,” the firm said in an email. “This stigma has been drilled into them for years, but times are changing. We now know how much being active can truly have an impact on your health. We are trying to dispel some of the excuses for the older population not to exercise, so they can stay around and enjoy their lives for longer.”
Lorrie Karn, director of Benevilla’s Benefitness program, is a wellness specialist and has been a group fitness instructor for more than a decade.
She agreed the “no pain, no gain” method is harmful, as are obsessing over weight loss or any other single metric, not listening to the body and thinking there is one magic cure that creates health and fitness.
“Fitness and health are individual,” Karn said. “There are a lot of pieces to it and it takes self-discipline and prioritizing your body. Nutrition and hydration play huge roles, as do making time to exercise and paying attention to both your mood scale and how you feel in your clothes.”
Karn said one of Benefitness’ most popular programs is called Rock Steady Boxing. Designed by an Indiana nonproft, it uses non-contact boxing training to minimize symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, showing Karn and others that body and mind exercise need to be tailored to each senior.
“We all should be focused on our baselines and shouldn’t trying to track more than three or four data points,” she said.
Jason W. Brooks
Jason W. Brooks is an associate editor for the Daily independent.
He covers the Buckeye area and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Brooks is a well-traveled journalist who has documented life in small American communities in nearly all its time zones. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised there and in suburban Los Angeles, he has covered community news in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.
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