Dear Dr. Garner,
I haven’t exercised in about two years, but I’m ready to start an exercise program. I feel that I have a better sense of balance when I exercise.
My daughter says I am too old to exercise. I am 81 and, aside from a little arthritis and a touch of diabetes, am in good shape.
Do you see any reason why I shouldn’t exercise?
Enthusiast in Elmhurst
Dear Exercise Enthusiast,
Your question brings up several interesting points. Is anyone too old to exercise? The answer to this question is definitely not! Almost every study evaluating exercise in the elderly demonstrates benefits, including greater improvement in physical functioning and balance.
Balance problems can be caused by a number of different issues, and your doctor can help in identifying what the cause of your imbalance might be.
Some causes include:
• Vertigo in which stones become dislodged in your inner ear and there is an intense sense of dizziness.
• Infection of the inner ear can cause severe dizziness and imbalance.
• Menieres disease — unknown cause — may be worsened by alcohol.
• Medications — blood pressure and antibiotics may cause imbalance.
• Head injuries or mini strokes may cause a loss of balance.
• Poor blood circulation may cause imbalance.
• Loss of vision, wearing bifocals, or having cataracts can cause falls.
While not the focus of your question, I felt it important to mention some possible causes for feeling imbalance so that readers with the problem are alerted to discuss this very important issue with their doctors.
Getting back to exercise, it is a good idea to visit your doctor to get a checkup before you start a new exercise program.
When you do exercise, it is important to prepare properly. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and well-fitting, sturdy shoes. The shoes should have a good arch support and an elevated and cushioned heel to absorb shock.
Since you have not worked out regularly for two years, you should start slowly.
Start with exercises that you are comfortable doing. The saying, “no pain, no gain,” is not true for older or elderly adults. You do not have to exercise at a high intensity to get the most health benefits.
I suggest walking as an excellent exercise with which to begin. Slowly increase your level of exercise as the weeks go on.
You should do about 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least five days per week. Aerobic activity includes walking, swimming and bicycling.
You should also do resistance or strength training two days per week. Ask your doctor about using weights.
Warm up at least five minutes before each exercise session. Walking slowly and stretching are good warm-up activities.
If you are not feeling well, do not exercise. If you have a cold, flu or other illness, wait to exercise until you feel better.
If your muscles or joints are sore the day after exercising, you may have done too much. Lower the exercise intensity before the next session.
If you have any symptoms of chest pain, trouble breathing, light headedness or dizziness or nausea, you should notify your physician.
I wish you good luck in your new exercise program and hope that you serve as an inspiration to others to get out there and start exercising. Remember, ask your doctor before you start and if possible, schedule a preventive maintenance checkup.
Until next time, have a great week and be well.[hr] Dr. Steven Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Ch. 97 Time Warner and Ch. 30 Cablevision.