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New Year's Resolution

Fitness at 50+: Five Barriers You Can Beat

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OBSTACLE: A History of Inactivity

What you can do: get started on the path to fitness by using everyday activities as exercise. Recent studies have shown that “functional exercises,” those that mimic actual daily activities such as walking up stairs and getting in and out of chairs, are most effective for you. Climbing a flight of stairs several times or repeatedly rising from and returning to a seated position is an effective way to build leg strength. As you become stronger and more fit, increase the challenge by holding some sort of weight on your shoulders, like soup cans. PM&R physicians say that even mundane household chores such as transferring wet laundry from the washer to the dryer, one piece at a time, can be used to increase strength and flexibility in your abdominal, low back and hip muscles. Once you’ve established a routine of exercise, functional fitness exercises can also be used to maintain your health.

OBSTACLE: Chronic Pain and Inflammation

What you can do: choose low impact activities to keep moving and minimize pain. Experts say that certain types of exercise can reduce joint stiffness, pain and inflammation associated with arthritis conditions that affect more than 40 million Americans. A PM&R physician can advise you on the exercise best suited for your arthritis, but activities such as walking, swimming and water-based exercise are generally effective and well tolerated. PM&R physicians also advise arthritic patients to take breaks from long periods of sitting so that joints don’t become stiff and painful.

If you face chronic pain or other medical conditions, consult a PM&R physician who can help you overcome obstacles and develop a realistic and effective fitness program. PM&R physicians are experts at diagnosing pain and restoring function, treating the whole patient, not just symptoms. Many recommend a simple tool to help aid accurate diagnosis, development of tailored and effective treatment and evaluation of progress: keep a log of daily activity, pain and questions that you bring with you to appointments with PM&R physicians or other doctors.

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