Exercise and Become a Jack of All Trades!!

November 15, 2018

As a kinesiologist who specializes in exercise programming for older adults, I am often asked what one exercise is the most important to do regularly.  Unfortunately, people tend to not like my answer.  I tell them that an older adult who wants to live an active and exciting life needs to be a “Jack of All Trades” when it comes to exercise, making time for many different training techniques.  Here’s why:

As we get older, the aging process takes a toll on most of our physical functions, such as muscle strength, dynamic balance, and joint mobility.  A way to illustrate this is through the use of “Aging Curves” popularized by Dr. Joseph Signorile, a colleague of mine on the East Coast.  Look at this illustration and see how physical capacity improves early in life as we grow and mature, and then begins to decline during adulthood.  The rate of decline is highly variable and is modified by our lifestyle choices.  Research has demonstrated that function declines more slowly in those who are physically active (orange curve) and declines more rapidly in those who are sedentary (blue curve).  As the curve illustrates, staying active is the key to successful aging!

However, based on the exercise principle of SPECIFICITY, there is no single exercise that benefits all functions in the body.  So, in order to keep any of our aging curves from plummeting to the disability threshold, we need to include exercises for joint mobility, muscular strength/power, flexibility, balance and agility in our training programs.  Or, put it in another way, we need to create a “Jack of All Trades”!  If you're seeking guidance on developing these types of training programs, Mobility Matters (www.mobilitymatters.fit) is a great place to get started.  Based on results of 3 validated assessments of physical function, every older adult has a customized 18 exercise program developed that includes exercises for Joint Mobility, Sensory Stimulation, Muscle Strength/Power, Static Balance, Dynamic Balance and Gait Enhancement.  A program with that much variety will be fun and engaging, and best of all, GET RESULTS! 

Till next time!

Dr. Chris

Reference:  Signorile, J.  (2011).  Bending the Aging Curve:  The Complete Exercise Guide for Older Adults.  Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.

Tags:older adultssuccessful agingfall preventionmobilityexercise programmobility matterssenior fitnessprevent falls

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