It’s never too late to start moving exercise

You slept wrong on your pillow and woke up with a sore neck. Forgot to bend with your knees while moving furniture and strained your back. Played pickleball so long yesterday that your wrist is aching today.

We’ve all been there.

While your instincts may tell you to avoid activity when experiencing your body’s aches and pains, movement may actually be a helpful remedy. This is especially true for older adults whose lives may already be sedentary.

Certainly, if you suffer an injury for any reason, get medical attention immediately. But for those aches and pains that seem to become more common as we age, opting out of exercise isn’t the recommended cure in the long run.

“Movement is medicine you need,” says Anthony Demetriou, owner of Train HD in Loudonville.

Demetriou says many of his clients are middle-aged or older, and every single person who walks through his doors has their own set of circumstances. There is no “one size fits all” training program.

“We do a very thorough evaluation process that’s an excellent functional movement screening,” he says. “This tells us where to begin.”

Of course, the last thing we want to do with our aches and pains is make them worse.

“The evaluation shows us a new client’s red flags,” Demetriou said. “These are areas we need to improve with corrective exercise.”

Demetriou recommends working with a professional trainer for a minimum of three to four sessions, if not longer. 

“Some people like exercise classes, but they’re not for everyone,” he said. “I work one-on-one with older adults to keep them from moving in a way that could cause injury.”

Lisa Swanson from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, works with women over the age of 50 after menopause. Swanson owned two fitness studios until 2014, when she pivoted her business model, launching Body & Soul Coaching online. She is a nutritionist, trainer, a specialist in hormonal changes in women postmenopause and is certified in female metabolism. 

Swanson, who runs three studios, says women over 50 face many challenges including achy joints, weaker muscles and weight gain. 

Hoping to remedy this, many women already exercising are using the same aerobic workouts they did decades ago, which could result in injury. But there’s a better choice.

“Weights are the way to go. Start out slowly, get help at the gym and set a progressive plan,” Swanson says. “Find a trainer experienced with working with women over 50.”

It can be confusing to figure out where to start with lifting weights. 

“Women believe if they do many repetitions with heavy weights, they might be able to look like they did in their 30s,” she says. “In middle age, its all about building muscle. Go ahead and start with lighter weights, then work your way up.”

There are other barriers to exercising that apply to people of any age: procrastination and lack of time.

“Anytime is a good time to start,” Swanson says. “Put it on your calendar and follow through.”

Other good advice is to find what you like that keeps you moving.

“Walk, bike, hike, garden, do yoga,” Swanson says. “Do anything to move.”

Exercise Myths, Debunked

MYTH: Cardio is the way to go for weight loss.

TRUTH: When you’re doing cardio, your heart rate increases, but that calorie burn alone won’t give you the results you want. The best bet is to incorporate both cardio and strength training to build muscle. Muscle mass helps burn calories even when you’re at rest.

MYTH: I need to work up a sweat to get results.

TRUTH: Everyone sweats at their own level. Some people seem to never break a sweat, while others perspire profusely. Other factors that come into play are temperature, your hydration level and the amount of humidity in the air. Sweat isn’t a way to measure how much you challenged your body working out.

MYTH: Heavy weights will bulk me up and make me look like a bodybuilder.

TRUTH: This myth is especially prevalent among women. For women to add visible bulk, they would need to do strenuous lifting on a regular basis. What prevents women from looking like Mr. America? They don’t have the testosterone level to reach that size.

MYTH: I’m not losing weight if the number on the scale stays the same when I step on it every morning.

TRUTH: First of all, it can be discouraging to weigh yourself daily, so try to stick to a once-a-week habit. Numbers on your scale can be skewed by how hydrated you are, when you last ate, the time of day you’re weighing yourself, clothing and even the type of scale you’re using. In fact, if you’ve embarked on a strength-building routine, the number on the scale may go up due to building new muscle. A better way to track your progress is with a good old measuring tape to record the size of your waist, arms and thighs.

MYTH: I exercised today doing both cardio and strength training. So, now I can eat whatever I want for the rest of the day.

TRUTH: If you want to undo all your efforts burning off calories, driving through your favorite fast-food joint is sure to do that. Good nutrition is a cornerstone of good health. One way to track your eating habits is to keep a food journal. You may be surprised at the amount of snacking you do at different times of the day. Remind yourself that you can’t work off a bad diet. Food is fuel, and proper nutrition guarantees results. It’s pretty simple: If you want to lose weight, your calorie output needs to be higher than your calorie input.

MYTH: I have to join a gym or take group classes to stay healthy.

TRUTH: Some people enjoy working out in the company of others, frequently at a gym. But anything that gets you up and moving will help you burn more calories than staying sedentary. Go bowling, walk the dog, do stretches during commercials, play bocce, take dance lessons, paint your front door, fly a kite with your grandchild. You’ll also lift your spirits along the way.

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