By Susan Manning
This is the first post in a monthly advice column by personal trainer, Susan Manning. You can submit your own exercise-related questions by filling in the contact form below. We can’t answer all the questions we receive but will pick questions that relate to most of our readers.
Q – Is it common to lose your normal walking patterns as you age?
A – Age related changes in our body can impact our balance and ability to move around safely. Changes in our muscles, skeleton, senses and neural systems can lead to impairments to our balance. But some older adults have maintained a normal walking gait into their 90’s suggesting that it is not an inevitable component of aging.
Q – Is it just problems with your gait that cause imbalances?
A – No. there can be many other factors such as upper and/or lower body disabilities, medications, and multiple chronic diseases. Talk to your doctor to identify the factors that are affecting your balance.
Q – Am I too old to start exercising?
A – No. you are never too old to start. Prior to starting you need to see your doctor and let him/her know of your intentions. It is a good idea to work with a trainer who can set up an individualized program for you and who will work closely with your doctor to provide a safe and effective fitness program.
Q – Do I need any special clothing or equipment to exercise?
A – A good pair of supportive footwear is important especially if you are starting up a walking program. Comfortable clothing that is not restrictive but also not too loose (which can get caught on things).
As for equipment, a fitness program can be set up with just using your own body weight or household items such as soup cans. Or if there is a community center or fitness club close by that you feel comfortable with then you have a wide variety of equipment available.
Q – I am a beginner to exercise and don’t think I can do 30 minutes continuously, is less ok?
A – Yes. You can break up the exercise and do shorter segments of time throughout the day. For example: 15 minutes of walking in the morning and then 15 minutes of raking the lawn in the evening.
Your exercise program does not have to be strenuous to receive the benefits. Walking, swimming, bicycling and dancing are all activities that are recommended for maintaining fitness as we age.
About the Author: Susan Manning is a BCRPA TFL, ACE, ACSM, TWIST certified Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist in BC. She is Dr. Carolyn Anderson’s co-author of It’s Never Too Late To Be Fit, a comprehensive guide for seniors’ fitness.