By: Chris Cooper, Wellness Director
For years, I have fielded questions, addressed concerns, and engaged in debate over the benefits of exercise for an older population. While most questions were great, many were based on myths and even fear. Because of this, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the most common myths of exercise relative to an older population.
Myth: Exercise isn’t a good idea for older people.
While it is always recommended to receive an exercise clearance from your doctor, it is a rare occurrence that a doctor would not recommend some sort of physical activity. The benefits almost always outweigh any potential risk. What is more important is to choose the right type of exercise as well as the appropriate intensity. Type refers to the kind of exercise, such as walking, biking, or using Nu-Step. Intensity can vary from low to vigorous, with moderate being appropriate for most people. A low intensity, with a slower warmup, and a shorter exercise session may be the best bet for persons just getting into exercise to decrease the risk of injury while still promoting fitness. Overall, exercise is excellent for producing stronger bones and muscles, better balance, increased flexibility, and it stalls cognitive decline.
Myth: If you have balance problems, exercising might make you fall.
You are at greater risk of falling by not practicing balance than you are by performing balance exercises. Just as with strength, cardiovascular, or stretching exercises….start slow, perform exercises that are a bit challenging but attainable, and progress over time. We offer balance exercises in most of the group fitness classes and have a Biodex Balance machine that is available at any time. Please see me for a demonstration and instruction.
Myth: You should refrain from exercise classes if you are unable to stand for very long.
If the inability to stand for long periods is a concern, no problem! We have three different chair-based classes, and standing at any point is optional. These classes are of varying intensity and are suitable for most ability levels: Body Moves (mild intensity), Sit Fit (moderate), Sit Fit+ (a bit more advanced). The Sit Fit classes offer an excellent balance training segment at the beginning of each class, as well as sit-to-stand chair squats to promote strength, balance, and coordinated movement.
Source: Riebe, D., Ehrman, J., Liguori, G., & Magal, M., (Eds.). (2018). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (Tenth Edition). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health