How can seniors with health conditions safely pursue exercise? “The best way is through a professional who takes into consideration all their co-morbid conditions,” says Trish Stackhouse, PT, a physical therapist at Indiana University Health Rehabilitation Services. “The medication history alone has an impact on what type of exercise endurance they have.”
To identify exercise parameters based on individual conditions, Stackhouse says it’s appropriate to ask a doctor for a referral to a physical therapist. “We can see someone for two or three visits to develop a customized at-home exercise program, which I would encourage any senior citizen to take advantage of,” she says.
A physical therapist can:
- Evaluate existing strength
- Customize exercise to meet individual life goals
- Help seniors stay independent
- Address risks to personal safety, such as falls
“Think about how many years people work to get to retirement and then can’t do the things they want for whatever reason,” she says. “There are things we can do that can help them pursue the leisure activities they’ve been working toward.”
Stackhouse says it’s important not to fatigue older patients with meaningless exercises that don’t help them achieve their desired goals. Seniors typically do best by training two to three times per week for strength and endurance, taking care not to over train. “Older muscles take longer to heal, and training the same muscle group daily can do more harm than good,” she says.
Any routine may cause soreness if you’ve been inactive for a long period—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When in doubt, Stackhouse says the length and severity of your pain can help determine whether there’s cause for concern. “If you’re in pain that lasts between 24 and 48 hours, you should probably contact a physician,” she says.
If you’re interested in having a physical therapist customize a workout that considers your health conditions, contact your primary care physician for a referral. To learn more about common conditions that can be managed with physical therapy, check out this post.