Senior Fitness: Many Dos and Don’ts

SUN CITY — Dick Fortier says many seniors are “used to” describing their exercise routines.

“I hear a lot of ‘I used to do this’ and ‘I used to do that,'” Fortier said. “But they often describe workouts from when their bodies were much younger, or even five years ago.”

Fortier and his wife, Jane, are Get Fit for Life personal trainers who work directly with Sun City Recreation Centers clients. Being adults themselves, they know all the bad habits people develop when playing sports and how to replace them without positive habits.

Jane Fortier says everyone’s body changes — whether it’s lifelong runners or those who rarely exercised as adults.

“These changes occur in the individual regardless of their fitness level,” she said.

Injury rehabilitation

Rehabilitation after surgery or injury and exercise are mutually exclusive, says Jane Fortier.

She said many personal trainers probably won’t take on a client until all physical injuries are “brought to integrity.” Rehabilitation tasks must be completed before an exercise program can begin, she said.

“We don’t really interact with a lot of massage therapists for specific clients, but we do talk to a lot of physical therapists,” she said. “If someone has had a joint replacement, it will involve extensive consultation. We want to help, not harm. This person may not be meant to do this exercise.

Dick Fortier points out that most modern weight machines can be adjusted to 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 in your blood.”

He said it’s important to strictly follow any rehab or physical therapy instructions.

“Sometimes we get people who tell us that their recovery from an injury isn’t where they want it to be,” said Dick Fortier. “And we ask them, ‘Are you following all the guidelines of your rehab?’ And the answer is no.”

What to look for

There are many good practices to learn and bad habits to avoid for seniors in exercise routines, including what it means to build muscle.
Jane Fortier’s definition of a “good burn” is a type of primarily muscular discomfort or soreness that occurs at the end of a workout and perhaps for hours and days afterward.

“If you get a sharp pain in the middle of an exercise, you should stop because you’ve probably injured something,” she said. “If there’s a problem, respect it.”

“The old idea of ​​’no pain no gain’? That’s out the window,” said Dick Fortier. Jane Fortier also recommends staying tuned to your body during exercise without focusing on other things.

“When you’re working out, it’s easy to get into a to-do list or listen to music, books or a podcast to take your mind off the physical stresses you’re putting on your body,” said Jane Fortier. “This approach can be destructive if used regularly. If you’re not getting the results you want from your workout or seem to be in a whirlwind of monotony, it’s probably because you need to take a ‘more mindful approach’ to exercise.”

She said that mindful exercise involves focusing on each individual movement during the workout. These movements are what help you achieve small goals, and reminding yourself of small goals during exercise is a motivator to achieve bigger ones.

“Studies show increased muscle activity when you focus intently on the muscle you’re working in a particular exercise,” she said.

Where to start

Jane Fortier said there are no “wrong” forms of exercise, although no one exercise is safe and effective for every person.

“The good thing about those who have never been to the gym is that they are often open-minded, willing to try many things,” she said. “But they can almost be a little timid. Those who had a workout routine in the past may have developed bad habits. There are also a few savvy people, but these people don’t usually seek help from personal trainers.

Many people struggle with the answer to one question: should they focus on aerobic exercise or strength training.

“The answer to that question is simple,” said Jane Fortier. “Aerobic and strength exercises are equally important. Due to the physiological changes in any aging body, aerobic exercise and strength training become a necessity. They serve different purposes, each of which affects how we feel and function. A smart exercise routine for anyone over the age of 50 would include both aerobic and strength exercise.”

Debunking myths

In a statement sent to the Daily Independent, Mesa-based Spark Performance & Physiotherapy says that just because life is easier for seniors in 2022 than it may have been in previous decades, it doesn’t mean that health and fitness they are no longer hard work.

“The older generation still seems to have a stigma against exercise,” the firm said in an email. “They’ve had this stigma for years, but times are changing. We now know how much activity can really do to your health. We’re trying to dispel some of the excuses for the older population not to exercise so they can stay around and enjoy their lives longer.”

Lori Karn, director of Benevilla’s Benefitness Program, is a wellness professional and group fitness instructor for over a decade.

She agreed that the “no pain, no gain” method is harmful, as is obsessing over weight loss or any other metric, not listening to the body, and thinking there is a magic pill that creates health and fitness.

“Fitness and health are individual,” Karn said. “There are many parts to it and it requires self-discipline and prioritizing your body. Nutrition and hydration play a huge role, as does 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 nonprofit, it uses non-contact boxing training to minimize the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, showing Karn and others that exercise for the body and mind should be tailored to each adult.

“We all need to focus on our baselines and not try to track more than three or four data points,” she said.

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