As we discussed in our first post this month, most people are aware that exercise is good for you and is recommended for achieving and maintaining optimal health. Yet still, a significant portion of the population doesn’t do it. We mentioned in that post that lack of time and motivation—or both—are two common explanations given for why people don’t exercise, but these certainly aren’t the only reasons.
Many other individuals, particularly middle– and older–aged adults, very much want to exercise, but may be unable to do so on account of physical limitations. Poorer balance, reduced flexibility, and weakened muscles all tend to become more likely through the aging process, but perhaps the most common ailment in older populations is joint pain. Issues like osteoarthritis, bad backs, sore shoulders, and knee and hip pain all increase in frequency the older we get, often making simple functioning throughout the day more difficult. Together, each of these issues can serve as a major barrier that prevents adults with physical limitations from exercising.
What you need to understand is that nearly every one of these barriers can be overcome, and one of the best ways to get there is by seeing a physical therapist.
Finding exercises that are perfectly suited for you
If you happen to be dealing with joint pain of any sort, you may think it’s best to avoid any activities that strain the injured area so that you don’t aggravate it any further. For a long while, this was believed to be the best approach for joint issues, but the prevailing logic has since changed, dramatically. Research over the past 30+ years has shown that physical inactivity is one of the worst things you can do for joint pain, as it leads to weaker muscles, less flexibility, and poor heart and lung health. In effect, too much rest will prolong one’s recovery or even make the condition worse over time.
Instead, current recommendations strongly promote frequent exercise for those with joint issues because it increases flexibility, bolsters strength, and promotes healing by increasing the flow of blood to the injured area. Strong and healthy muscles can more effectively protect bones and joints, which is one reason regular exercise significantly lowers the risk for future musculoskeletal injuries. And over time, higher physical activity levels will increase stability and reduce the risk and number of falls in older adults as well.
But knowing this, getting from point A (physical inactivity) to point B (regular physical activity) often requires some guidance for many adults, and this is where physical therapy come in. Physical therapists are movement experts that are trained to assess any limitations or impairments that may be affecting one’s mobility, and then address these issues with a personally tailored treatment program. If a patient comes in who wants to exercise more but doesn’t think they can do so because of joint pain, poor balance, weakness, or any other potential barrier, a physical therapist will work with this individual to find forms of exercise that are feasible for their specific physical abilities. From there, the physical therapist will continue to monitor your progress and then introduce ways to help you gradually advance to more intense forms of exercise once you’re ready. Each exercise program can be modified regularly based on your response, so you’re never falling out of your comfort zone.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re out of shape, or if you have any other physical impairments. Your physical therapist will find a way to help you become more physically active in a manner that’s safe, comfortable, and effective for your unique goals.
If you’re interested in learning more about how physical therapy can help you safely increase your activity levels and introduce exercise to your life, contact us today.