One of the most common questions I get asked, really from all age groups, is “are there any exercises I should avoid?”
But, for those 55 and older, it usually also comes with the added… “so that I don’t get injured.”
I have been a Physical Therapist for quite some time now. I have worked with 1000s of people over the age of 55 who have continued to enjoy the same activities in their 50s as they did in their 40s.
Sounds amazing, right?
I’m talking about running marathons, competing in Ironman’s, hiking, playing softball, riding horses, etc. You name it and I am sure I can think of someone older than 55 who is currently doing or has done it, as they continued to age.
A very popular saying is that age is just a number. I hear it a ton amongst the active adults we treat.
But why do others see age as a reason to stop doing the activities they love? Why do some feel that is an excuse to slow down?
Here are the 3 most common reasons that I have heard:
- Fearful that exercise will cause pain or worsen the pain
- Told by their friends, family, or even worse, a medical professional that they should not be doing that type of exercise
- Lack of accountability
1. Fear That Exercise Will Be Causing Pain Or Worsen The Pain
We are all dealing with or have dealt with pain. If you are older than 55, then it is almost certain you have dealt with some sort of pain or ache. Think about it though, I bet it did not always stop you. And, I bet it continues to not stop you.
Think about when you were raising kids. You set your kid down into their crib and you go to stand back up and you feel that deep ache in the low back. This made it difficult to return to standing. Three hours later, after your child is done napping, you go to their room. You now realize you are going to have to bend over and pick up your kid out of the crib.
Do you do it?
Of course, you do.
We deal with aches and pains throughout our life but we don’t let them stop us from doing the things we need to do.
As we age, we tend to get more cautious. We become more fearful of pain, or more accurately, what that pain means.
As we get older, the fear of pain increases in your 50s and 60s because now pain means doomsday in our heads.
The concern as we get older is that every little ache and pain could be something worse than just a ‘tweak’ in the back now that you are older.
Couple that with the fact that as we age it seems like it takes forever to recover from an injury. Now we can start to see why people aged 55 and older are afraid to exercise….
…because it could make the pain worse.
Here’s the kicker, pain does not always mean there is damage. Pain is simply something your brain perceives and wants you to pay attention to. You shouldn’t ignore it, but you should also not fear it!
The best thing to do with pain, even when exercising, is just to adjust or modify something in your movements. Examples would be decreasing the time, decreasing the weight, decreasing speed, etc.
Once you understand this, you are well on your way to staying active as you continue to age!
2. A Friend, A Family Member (Or Even Worse) A Medical Professional Told You That You Should Not Be Doing That Type Of Exercise
Everyone has Dr. Google at their fingertips. And everyone has an opinion on everything.
Your old wives’ tales about “you can’t let your knees go past your toes” or “you need to keep your back as stiff and as straight as a board” have not aged well.
I still hear it from patients “my doctor told me to never squat again”. Although I am sure they mean well, they have not necessarily kept up with the research showing the many benefits of those exact movements they have told you not to do.
Nor was that advice critically appraised before being spoken. Imagine a life of not being able to squat…how will you sit on the toilet? How will you go up and down stairs?
The hard part is that these old beliefs from healthcare professionals, your parents, and your friends create such a mixed message. The mixed message will confuse you. And confusion will lead to you not taking action.
Did you know some doctors still rely on images such as x-rays and MRIs to base their diagnosis of musculoskeletal pain? And then use basic imaging to structure their treatment plan to give to you.
Did you know bulging discs are common and that they can reabsorb?
Since we have found that to be true, why would someone base their plan of care solely on how an image looks?
That is just one example of how some healthcare professionals are not staying up-to-date on the current best evidence.
But, if you went to a physician practicing the “old school” way of thinking you would have been told that you need surgery. Not just need surgery, you need surgery RIGHT NOW.
Pain has truly changed to a more holistic approach. You must look at your pain and the factors that could be influencing the pain. Looking at all ways to receive treatment and make a structured more lifestyle-based plan.
3. Lack Of Accountability
I understand, it is tough to drag yourself somewhere 3-5 days per week. You do it for work, but that is because your boss is holding you accountable to do your job.
Plus, if you don’t, you won’t get paid.
And, apparently, you need money for a roof over your head, food in your belly, etc.
Some people are very internally motivated and have no issues with getting to the gym on their own. Others struggle with this and are caught in the crossfire of internal motivation or a fixed mindset that therapy is an expense not worth the energy.
That is why Physical Therapists are not only here to build your plan of care but we are also here to be your accountability partner in this next step of your journey!
You need to have someone hold you accountable for your health. We have been trained to be held accountable. For most of our life, we are constantly being held accountable. In our younger years, we were held accountable by our teachers. At work, we have bosses to hold us accountable for the work we are doing.
Why do you think it should change with your workouts that you may/may not want to do but know you should do?
Hire someone to hold you accountable. It is the most responsible thing you can do for your health!
Your future self will thank you.
Do You Need Help Getting Your Pain Under Control So That You Can Continue Aging Gracefully?
Are you currently avoiding your favorite activity because of pain? Take the next best step to get you back to enjoying your life, and doing something good for your future self, by reaching out to us! You can request a discovery visit. It’s a no-obligation visit where we can meet you, see where you are at, find out if we can help you, and decide if you are a good fit for our programs!