Exercises for Special Populations is about movement. Gentle movement, fun movement, body-friendly movement and therapeutic movement; movement that can be as big or as small as you need it to be…to get you or someone else moving.
There is an enormous gap between what the traditional, suggested guidelines for exercise standards are and what many sedentary, obese or frail older adults and seniors are prepared or able to do. The statistics speak for themselves, as do the ads we see. America’s obsession with food – oversize portions, bigger and faster is better…”Don’t bother me – I’m eating” mentality, coupled with our mechanized lifestyle and cyber-dominated society, has created a population of overweight older adults with some degree of back pain, arthritis, diabetes, and often some other condition of poor health.
Many sedentary or recovering individuals been overwhelmed by the prescribed 20 minutes a day of aerobic exercise – three times a week, plus the recommended two days a week of strength training. Although these guidelines are based on sound research and positive results, the sad truth is that this is too much for some people to begin with.
Over the last twenty-five years. I have worked with many seniors and older adults that have chronic pain of one sort or another. Some of them have a systemic disease like fibromyalgia or diabetes. A few have been recovering from cancer or a cardio-vascular event. Many have had a back injury or surgery, and still have substantial pain. They almost all have arthritis. The common denominator is that it hurts to move…so they don’t…any more than they have to.
Most of them have tried to exercise in the past, but because they were attempting to meet the requirements that have been accepted as standard, they have often experienced increased pain, additional injury, or severe fatigue that discouraged them. It’s a case of “too much, too soon”.
Inevitably they reduce their physical activity to bare minimum, and in many cases they even become unable to perform the daily tasks that are part of living independently. Because I specialize in creating alternate approaches to exercise, they come to see me.
Over the years, both as an exercise therapist and a neuro-muscular therapist I have learned that slow, gentle movement with a spiral/diagonal component – when sustained over a period of just a few minutes, has a profound therapeutic effect on pain, stiff joints and tight muscles.
Although this also works as a warm-up for traditional forms of exercise, it stands alone as a successful way to introduce comfortable physical movement to the body.
When you pick up the pace a bit, and add more of the body moving, your heart and lungs get a gentle workout. This is a safe way to prepare for a regular “physical activity” routine.
Whole-Body Breathworks presents a change from looking at exercise as the means of preventing or even managing disease or excess weight. It looks instead at movement for movement’s sake. Incremental exercise is the name of the game, but not in the newly set standard of ten-minute bouts. This is starting small. I’m talking tiny here…three or four minutes at a time. Leg jiggling, foot tappin’, shoulder-swayin’, hip shakin’, house walkin’ movement in response to music is one way to start.
These are easy, body-gentle, fun, playful, silly movements just to get the blood and oxygen moving – movement that you can adapt and adjust to fit your physical condition and energy level on any given day.
Begin with five minutes of walking outside or just around the inside of your home. When five minutes is fairly easy, increase it to eight or ten minutes. Three or four minutes of light dancing to music around the room at a time; getting up and down out of a chair four or six times. Try doing this several times a day. It will amaze you how fast you’ll get stronger., soon you’ll be doing ten.
Pretend to conduct music with your arms and sway your hips for the length of one whole song. That’s usually about four minutes. Do this consistently two times a day for two weeks and soon you will feel ready and able to do more. When you want to increase the level of your activity, hold 15oz. cans in each hand while you do your moving. These are simple, fun ways to begin to build or regain strength and endurance.
So…”Whole” Body Breathworks is about staying alive, mobile, and hopefully well – but doing it with the energy and vitality and enthusiasm that good health and physical strength promotes and supports. The key is movement and the key to motivating most people to start or re-start being physically active… is making it pleasurable and very easy to do. That’s where you start – because you have to start somewhere.
Good Luck & Have Fun!
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