Richard Ueberfluss, the owner of Assisting Hands Home Care in Naperville, IL, recently appeared on Conversations in Care, a program on Blog Talk Radio, to discuss the importance of exercise for senior citizens. Richard spent 25 years as a physical therapist and has extensive knowledge about senior fitness and how to create a beneficial exercise program for senior citizens. In the show, Richard covers a range of topics related to senior exercise including different types of exercises, the difference between inactivity and age-related changes, and much more. The summary below contains some of the main points discussed by Richard Ueberfluss on Conversations in Care.
Barriers and Myths Regarding Senior Exercise
When it comes to exercising, there are many myths and barriers that may stop someone from exercising regularly. Richard points out that this is a problem that affects the entire population, but then explained some of the common myths and barriers specific to seniors.
- Myth – the negative effects of aging are inevitable: Many senior citizens feel like they shouldn’t be exercising are engaging in physical activity in their old age. They believe that exercising is for young, able bodied people.
- Myth – older adults cannot get stronger or faster: Richard cites a study in which 80-year-old male seniors were given 5-pound weights and told to do bicep curls. The participants had stronger, bigger biceps after eight weeks and many of them were walking better. A person can get stronger and faster with exercise, no matter what age they are.
- Barrier – older adults are afraid of being injured: This is more likely to happen if an exercise program is too intense or includes exercises that are not right for the individual. Creating the right exercise program for seniors will limit the risk of injury.
Richard explains that each of these myths and barriers are exactly that – myths that do not apply to any age group, including the elderly. It is common for senior citizens to fear injury or falling during exercise. Many seniors may not know how to begin an exercise program or have a place to exercise. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that seniors are starting an exercise program that is right for their ability, strength, and energy level. Joining an exercise group with other seniors can also help seniors to get over these fears and barriers.
Inactivity vs Age-Related Activity Change
Richard explains that as people age, it becomes less clear what an inactive senior looks like compared to an active senior. The following are some of the differences between inaction and age-related changes in old age:
- Heart rate: The resting heart rate of a person stays the same from young adulthood up to their senior years. However, if a person is inactive at 80 years old, their resting heart rate will increase from what it used to be. This means that the heart of an inactive senior citizen must work harder than the heart of an active senior.
- Pulmonary changes: As people age, their breathing endurance goes down some, but this will only have a major effect during strenuous physical activity. During most normal activities such as walking around a shopping center, the change in breathing endurance is negligible.
- Muscular-skeletal changes: It is inevitable that as people age, they lose some muscle mass and strength. Seniors who remain inactive lose much more muscle mass than those who are active. A loss in muscle mass can lead to less endurance, flexibility, and bone mineral density. Osteoporosis is not a normal effect of aging, inactivity accelerates muscle and bone loss. Between age 30 and age 70, an active person may lose about 20-30 percent of muscle strength while an inactive person will lose 70 percent of their peak muscle strength over the same time period.
Developing a Senior Exercise Program
A good exercise program for seniors can help improve quality of life, functional strength, endurance, and balance. To achieve these benefits, the exercise must be done at an intensity, duration, and frequency that sufficiently overloads their systems. There are four main types of exercise that can achieve this:
- Aerobic: This includes any activity such as walking, swimming, bike riding, and other similar activities that are performed for 20-40 minutes non-stop, at least 3 times per week. The intensity of these exercises must be high enough so that the person can still breath but has barely enough wind to talk.
- Balance: Senior citizens have a high risk for falls which can cause serious injuries. Balance exercises should be done once per day to help improve overall balance. A balance exercise program can start with an activity as simple as standing on one leg next to a counter and trying to balance on that one leg for 3-5 minutes. Walking with one foot directly in front of the other is another common type of balance exercise. Balance exercises can help seniors walk better by improving their balance on one leg.
- Flexibility: Stretching exercises to improve flexibility are important for senior citizens. It is best for seniors to stretch after warming up, and not to warm up by stretching. Stretching after the muscles have been warmed up and full of blood helps maintain flexibility while stretching before the muscles are warmed up could lead to muscle injuries. Therefore, stretching should be done at the end of the exercise for 30-60 seconds, and it should be intense enough to make the person uncomfortable, but not cause any pain.
- Resistance Training: Resistance training can include weight lifting, pushups, squats, and other similar activities. It is very important to take a day of rest between resistance exercises to avoid muscle pain and breakdown. For the best results, these exercises should be done in 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions. At the last repetition, the individual should feel like they cannot do one more. Starting out with too high of an intensity with resistance training can make a person sore. It is best to ease into it using lighter weights and less intense workouts for a couple of weeks before starting a full resistance training program.
Safety for Senior Fitness Programs
As Richard explains earlier in the program, senior citizens are generally concerned about injuries, falls, and general soreness. Many seniors also do not know where to start with an exercise program that is right for them. Richard recommends that seniors interested in starting an exercise program should see a physical therapist or experienced personal trainer that can help them create an effective exercise program. These professionals will be able to identify exercises that are safe for seniors with specific physical ailments.
Richard ends the program once again emphasizing the importance of a good exercise program for seniors. One of the barriers for seniors when it comes to exercise is chronic disease such as arthritis, Parkinson’s, and diabetes. However, 25 percent of the deaths among seniors with these diseases are due more to inactivity than the disease itself. This means that 1 in 4 seniors with chronic diseases die simply because of inactivity. This is just one of the ways that an exercise program can improve the quality of life for senior citizens.
Help from Assisting Hands Home Care
As Richard explains in great detail on Conversations in Care, it is very important for seniors to be active. Physical activity can improve balance, strength, and endurance, and reduce the risk of death from chronic diseases, leading to a better quality of life. If you or a senior citizen in your family can benefit from a regular exercise program, talk to a doctor and get a referral to a physical therapist to get a program started. Our caregivers at Assisting Hands Home Care can help keep seniors active by aiding with simple exercises and going on walks. If you would like to learn more about senior exercise of our senior care services, contact Assisting Hands Home Care in Naperville at (630) 352-3656 for more information.
Listen to the entire Conversations in Care program featuring Richard Ueberfluss.