Older man doing a pushup at physical therapy

We can all agree that movement becomes more challenging over time. Toddlers and young children seem like they can play for hours on end, teenagers and young adults are in the prime of their sports careers, and those in middle adulthood may pick up a favorite yoga or cycling class. Fast forward to your mid-60’s and you can’t remember the last time you stepped foot into the gym. Not to mention, you have a collection of reasons as to why being active is no longer an option for you. Well, I’m here to bust your myths friends!

Let’s take a look at the top 4 myths leading you to believe exercise simply isn’t for you.

MYTH #1:

I’m too fragile to exercise, what if I break something?

Unless a medical professional (i.e. your MovementX physical therapist) or a physician has told you otherwise, exercise can make you the opposite of fragile! If you don’t believe me or think you are too weak to bounce back, take a look below.

Muscle Strength

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but exercise makes you stronger. But let’s dive a little bit deeper, shall we?

Sarcopenia is defined as loss of skeletal muscle mass and overall strength. It is associated with age, gender, and physical activity levels. Looking at these three contributors, which one can you control?

If you put in your vote as physical activity, you win! Age does play a factor in muscle loss, but exercise can prevent loss or improve muscle mass.

Joint Mobility and Stability

Muscles mass supporting your joints can assist in stability and proper mobility. Just as your muscles can atrophy without regular exercise, as can the cartilage that cushions your joints. Your joints are more resilient with regular exercise.

Bone Density

Exercise not only slows bone loss for those at risk or with osteopenia and osteoporosis, but it can also improve bone density! With both weight-bearing activities that induce approximation of the bones, as well as resistance training activities that increase load on your bones, these exercises can incite bone forming cells to get working and build stronger bone.

Balance and Endurance

Regular exercise can improve balance, and increase our ability to recover and get up if we do end up on the ground.

First here are the facts.

About one third of adults age 65 years and older experience at least one fall accident per year, and the rate of falls and severity of the resulting complications increases with age.

Physical activity, especially activity that includes balance training, can greatly reduce the risk of falling. But as we know, falls can be inevitable. With regular exercise, the ability to tolerate a fall increases, with less chance of significant injury.

Let’s start a new slogan going into 2021- I’ve fallen and I can get up!

Eldery couple hiking in the woods while preventing a fall

MYTH #2:

I do 30 minutes of walking a few times a week, that’s enough for me.

This amount of walking is great, but did you know there are recommendations from the American Heart Association for the amount, intensity, and types of exercise?

  • Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.

  • Add moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity, such as resistance or weights, on at least 2 days per week.

  • Spend less time sitting. Even light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary.

  • Gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (5 hours) per week.

  • Increase amount and intensity of physical activity gradually over time.

Physical therapist performing medical interview of geriatric man in Lake Oswego, Oregon

MYTH #3

I’m 70 years old, it’s too late to start an exercise routine now.

This simply is not true!

Exercise, at all ages and stages in life, has proven to be beneficial.

  • Body: exercise can lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and certain types of cancer
  • Mind: exercise can improve mental health, including mood, memory, sleep, anxiety, and depression
  • Spirit: exercise can improve self-confidence, energy, and motivation for being social
Older woman with great balance throwing leaves without fallin

MYTH #4

I have joint pain, arthritis, back pain. Exercise will only make that worse.

Ahh, the dreaded joint pain. We must save the best for last! If we could bust any myth, it would be that painful joints should keep us from exercising.

I’m sure you have already guessed it, but the recommendation (excluding some specific orthopedic issues) is to keep moving!

Let’s talk joints first.

Exercise can:

  • Increase synovial fluid, our bodies natural joint lubricant
  • Send blood, oxygen, and nutrients to our joints
  • Build muscle around the joint, which improves stability and protects the joint

What about for arthritis?

Though you might think exercise would aggravate your joint pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, it is exactly the opposite! Lack of exercise actually can make arthritic joints even more painful and stiff.

  • Remember, keep exercise relatively low impact. We don’t want anyone suffering through movement that flares arthritis pain.
  • Advance in intensity when it feels right, but go slowly and trust your body! Maybe start with some bodyweight strengthening, and then add weights or resistance once you are confident you are nailing it.
  • Use heat and ice as needed to care for any joints that need a little extra TLC.

And for back pain?

Back pain is one of the leading causes of activity limitations throughout the world, with recurring episodes of pain for about 30% of those affected.

However, most back pain can be improved and managed with core strengthening, improved posture, and weight loss.

Core Strength: Remember that your core includes not just those 6-pack abs and obliques, but also the muscles that through your posterior chain and attach to your spine, including the erector spinae and multifidi. Taking time to work on these muscles can improve back pain you may be experiencing!

Posture: Poor posture while sitting and standing can put unnecessary strain and fatigue on your back. Practicing good ergonomics while at work, getting up frequently to walk around or stretch, and performing exercise that improves posture can make all the difference.

 

Weight Loss: Weight loss (when indicated) can reduce strain on the muscles and ligaments that keep your spine in proper alignment. Weight loss can also reduce the pressure on discs that support the spine. Weight loss can even improve inflammation, joint pain, and overall wellness!

Physical therapist working with an older man on balance and falls prevention

Let’s wrap this up.

One truth continues to ring true: Movement is the key to a brighter, more functional, and more robust future!

As we age, physical activity becomes even more important. If you still aren’t sure, reach out to one of MovementX’s Physical Therapists or Personal Trainers. We can share stories of success, triumph, hope, and new beginnings.

Even better, take a look at www.ageproofyourbody.com and join a community of like minded older adults who continue to move together every week!

Simply said: Move better, Live Better. At MovementX, it’s our passion and purpose to help you realize just that!

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Meet the Author…

Meredith Black, Personal Trainer MovementX HeadshotMeredith Black, Personal Trainer with MovementX in Arlington, Virginia
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Meredith Black is a registered nurse, a personal trainer, and most importantly, a wellness advocate in Arlington, Virginia. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007 with a BS in Psychology, and went on to graduate from VCU in 2011 with a BS in Nursing. With her passion for health and wellness flourishing, she went on to get certified through American Council on Exercise (ACE) to practice Personal Training, Sports Nutrition, and Functional Training.