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Words of Wellness Health Challenges & Physical Activity

February 5, 2010
Nikki Carrion MA

Although there are a host of benefits shown to be associated with being physically active, many find it challenging to just do it. It often becomes even more difficult as we age and find ourselves faced with health challenges. Even with such health challenges taken into consideration, the majority are not precluded from being physically active. In fact, increasing ones current level of physical activity is not only likely to increase energy, strength, balance and mobility, but to ease the aches and pains often related to common health challenges such as arthritis and back problems.

However, this knowledge does not answer concerns such as "which activity/exercise is right for me, where should I start or, how much is too much?" The answer is good communication, starting with your health care provider. He or she can often provide information in terms of where to start and will often offer specific programming recommendations for specific problems (i.e. back exercises and/or stretches for back pain). A referral may then be made to see a fitness professional (i.e. physical therapist or personal trainer) who has experience working with individuals who have similar health challenges.

If you choose to work with a fitness professional (FP) such as a personal trainer, don't hesitate to ask questions and to communicate your goals.

Make sure your chosen FP listens and answers your questions in a knowledgeable way, that this person expresses a genuine interest and concern for you as a person and that he or she exudes a sense of confidence about the idea of empowering you to a higher level of functional fitness. Expect to have a series of evaluations performed to assess your physical capabilities; in-depth or a simple assessment of range-of-motion and various elements of strength. These evaluations should be repeated periodically in order to reveal progress made and/or to identify areas that may need attention. This invaluable information provides a starting point and encouragement to continue. Working with a FP in a class setting is another option. Regardless of whether you choose to work one-on-one or in a group setting, watch to see that your FP's instruction includes modifications for the various exercises performed with safety at the forefront. He or she should exude a positive and enthusiastic attitude with regard to instructing the class and being physically active, and attention should be directed to those being served.

Research has shown physical activity to be an elixir of sorts, serving to deter onset of many health challenges and/or to improve associated symptoms. Communicate with your health care provider and/or a FP to make the most of your experience with physical activity and to improve your functional fitness as you age. Research has shown disability to be the direct result of disease and/or disuse. Although we oftentimes don't have control over how disease(s) may affect us, we do have 100% control of whether or not we choose to be physically active. Don't let yourself, or your loved ones, become a statistic. Make the move, learn more about your condition in an effort to be able to empower yourself to improve it. Such efforts will serve to improve your quality of life, assisting you in maintaining your independence.

Source: American Council on Exercise



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