How to Adapt Your Fitness Routine For the Later Years

We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep on saying it: regular exercise unlocks immense benefits for all age groups. For seniors, exercise is the ticket to a happier, healthier retirement. Benefits include:

  • Better sleep
  • Improved mental health
  • Weight maintenance or loss
  • Looking and feel younger

Yet with the passing years comes the need to adapt exercise routines. With each decade, the body changes, and what used to be easy-breezy is now more challenging. This doesn’t mean people can’t continue exercising as they age. It just means they need to refine their approach.

Go See the Physician
Regular readers of the AlterG blog will recognize this common refrain: when introducing exercise into one’s life, or drastically changing one’s routine, it’s important to talk to the doctor first. That goes for people of all ages.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, though: an annual physical evaluation with a primary care physician is the right time to evaluate one’s suitability for regular exercise and any additional precautions they need to take.

RELATED: 5 Workouts for People With Fall Risk

Start Simple and Progress Incrementally
Our age and physical condition are no match for the inner picture we have of ourselves (I’ll be 25 forever!). While relatable, attempting the same activities, with the same intensity, that we could earlier in life lead to injury.

Instead, set an objective to do one simple exercise, such as walking, toe touches, or stretching every day, or every other day, for two weeks. After two weeks, you’ll have developed the habit of exercise on which you can build toward a more advanced senior exercise routine.

RELATED: Train Seniors Using Unweighting

Establish Baseline Flexibility and Balance
For the first couple of weeks, make balance, core strength, and flexibility the areas of focus. This will help establish a baseline that will enable comfortable, safe, and effective exercise later on.

Modify Your Existing Routine
Don’t rule out a return to glory just yet! Many of the exercises and routines you used to do can be modified. Lifting weights, stretching, aerobics, yoga, Tai Chi—all of these can be done while sitting in a chair. Many seniors take to the pool for aerobic routines that are just as challenging, but not as hard on the body.

Work With a Physical Therapist
The question is, do seniors need a physical therapist? In some cases, physical disability, injury, fall risk, and other factors common among seniors necessitate work with a physical therapist. For seniors, working with a physical therapist can offer a number of advantages:

  • Guided exercises that limit fall risk
  • Identify and work on weaknesses or deficiencies
  • Rehabilitate and recover from injury
  • Go slow under the supervision of a professional

The supervision of a professional can be very beneficial. Physical therapists have tools and techniques at their disposal that are designed to help people get the most out of their workouts—regardless of age, condition, injury status—in sensible, safe increments.

LEARN MORE: Anti-Gravity Treadmill for Seniors

Can You Walk On A Sprained Ankle?

Ah, our old friend the sprained ankle. It always seems to happen when we least expect, doesn’t it? Walking too close to the edge of the sidewalk. Coming down the mountain from a hike.

Stepping across the road in heels.

Even the slightest misstep can cause a painful sprain that can linger for weeks, even months. No one wants to be off their feet for too long, especially athletes and fans of regular exercise. The question is, can you walk on a sprained ankle?

Walk on a Sprained Ankle By Taking the Weight Off

The answer is: it depends on the severity of the sprain. There are three grades used to evaluate ankle sprains:

  • Grade I
  • Grade II
  • Grade III (most severe)

Although the first temptation might be to “walk it off,” this can cause more damage to stretched or torn ligaments and prolong recovery time. It’s important not to overdo it or get ahead of yourself: walking too soon on a sprained ankle can lead to reinjury, pain, and more chronic conditions like arthritis.

There are a few important activities that help people work through a sprained ankle:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • Re-strengthening exercises
  • Rebuilding stability, balance, and flexibility
  • Gradually introducing weight-bearing activities

How to Gradually Introduce Weight Bearing on a Sprained Ankle

Traditionally, crutches, boots, and braces are used to eliminate or significantly reduce the body-weight impact on a sprained ankle. This reduces injury risk and allows time to begin rebalancing and restrengthening the injured ankle.

Our very own AlterG AntiGravity Treadmill™ is often deployed to help patients recovering from ankle sprains. The Anti-Gravity Treadmill allows therapists to add body weight in small increments, monitor pain and use gait analysis to fine-tune walking or running mechanics. The result is a drastic reduction of re-injury risk and shorter recovery times altogether.

Recommended reading: Read our Grade III lateral ankle sprain protocol on our clinical resources page. In this case study, the Anti-Gravity Treadmill was used to gradually re-introduce weight bearing and build the strength and flexibility of the injured ankle. The results are remarkable.

6 Tips for Running in Your Fifties

Though it might feel like a steeper hill to climb, running in your fifties is definitely possible. Maintaining a regular running program doesn’t have to be a casualty of age! In fact, running can be quite a boon to your well-being as you age.

Yet, running in your fifties brings with it different considerations than, say, running in your twenties. Certain aspects of the program that you used to take for granted can now be the difference between a healthy routine and injury, chronic pain, and slow progress. Here are six tips to do it right:

1. Listen to Your Doctor
Start at the doctor’s office. The doctor will make recommendations about whether you are fit and healthy enough to run at all (and at what intensity). This information will help you design the right program for your age and fitness level.

2. Prioritize Recovery
Turning fifty doesn’t mean you can’t run anymore, but it might mean that recovery times might increase. At the age of fifty, perhaps more than ever in your past, recovery time will become terribly important. Make sure to leave enough time for sleep and take adequate rest days between runs. Work on proper diet and sleep to maximize recovery.

3. Tap into Flexibility, Stabilizers, and Balance
Running in and of itself asks a lot of our core strength, flexibility, and balance. Running in your fifties asks a bit more. Still, focusing on these areas can create a base that allows you to run longer and safer while limiting pain and injury.

4. Play the Long Game
As we age, it takes longer to make improvements and reach new heights in our running programs. It’s important to resist the temptation to overdo it, as injuries from overuse or overexertion also take longer to recover from in our fifties and beyond. The more in tune we are with our adjusted timelines, the longer we’ll be able to sustain a healthy program over time.

5. Consider Group Training
Running with other peers in your age group is a great way to calibrate your routine and stay within yourself. There are plenty of fifty-plus running groups in most cities. Take the leap and see how nice it is to run each week with people who share in and understand what it means to run in your fifties.

6. Say Goodbye to Younger You, Embrace the New You
Our final tip is all about outlook. Yes, it is true that we might lose some ability, conditioning, and capacity as we age. And it can be difficult to come to terms with what we feel like we’re capable of in our minds and what our bodies can actually do. Still, the sooner you embrace the “new you,” the quicker you’ll be able to adapt the right habits and approaches that make running in your fifties better than ever.

5 Workouts for People With Fall Risk

Fall risk is inherent to certain activities no matter who you are. Yet, some conditions increase fall risk during certain types of movement and exercise. One in four Americans aged sixty five or older, for example, falls each year. Other conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and neurological disorders, can contribute to increased fall risk as well.

This doesn’t exclude people with higher fall risks from exercise! Here are five workouts that reduce or eliminate balance and coordination issues, perfect for people with higher fall risk.

1. Seated Leg Lifts

From a sitting position on the floor, back to a wall and legs straight out, lift and hold your leg a couple inches from the ground. After ten to fifteen seconds, release and repeat with the other leg. You can also sit in a chair, instead, back straight, and lift leg until it is parallel to the floor. Alternate after ten to fifteen seconds. Keep the core engaged.

2. Sitting Shoulder Press

Sitting upright in a chair, or on a bench, keeping good posture, point elbows out and slowly push arms upward to the sky until fully extended. Slowly release back down to beginning position. Focus on slow, deliberate movements, always keeping the core engaged. Use three, five, or ten-pound hand weights to increase resistance.

3. Elliptical

In situations where a traditional treadmill is too risky, the elliptical machine can be a safer, more stable alternative. Start light and slow, keeping body-weight impact minimal. Always hold on to the handles for safety, and increase workout time incrementally as you progress.

4. Pool Work

Another way to decrease body-weight impact during exercise is to hop into the pool. Swimming and water aerobics are one of the best total-body workouts that carry little fall risk. Most gyms offer group pool workout classes that can be dynamic and engaging. Good for the heart, too.

5. AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™

Perhaps the safest way to control fall risk is training with the Anti-Gravity Treadmill. Under the supervision of a trained physical therapist, patients and athletes can reduce body-weight impact in 1% increments. Thanks to a sturdy harness, participants can walk or run unrestricted by fear of falling or pain and make adjustments to their gait on the fly.

This is just a small sampling of the many exercises suitable for people with higher fall risk. Have fun and mix it up to keep things interesting. Explore different muscle groups and systems to target, both upper and lower body. The main thing is to keep moving in safe and rewarding ways.

What Does Patient-Therapist Collaboration Really Look Like?

From a patient’s point of view, the right fit for physical therapy can be challenging. Since this will be an ongoing relationship, lasting at least the duration of the physical therapy program, the first thing to look for is an atmosphere of communication, trust, and collaboration.

What, though, does patient-therapist collaboration actually look like? Here are four common attributes of strong patient-therapist relationships that can help both patients and therapists evaluate clinical environments.

Honest Communication Is Encouraged (Even When It’s Uncomfortable)

Patients want to know not only that they will be heard, but that they will be treated with respect and equanimity no matter the information they are communicating. Therapists can engender more effective collaboration by encouraging patients to communicate early and often about whatever they feel is important to share.

This can be as simple as providing an opportunity at the outset of each visit to share updates, concerns, or questions a patient might have. Over time, patients will feel more comfortable communicating valuable information that can help shape the pace and direction of the therapy program.

Trust is Established Early and Honored Throughout

Open patient-therapist communication goes hand in hand with trust. Physical therapists can establish trust by listening to a patient and, where appropriate, taking action on the information provided.

When patients recognize that their therapist is making clinical decisions in the patient’s best interest—based in part on the information the patient is providing—they will be more likely to stay engaged with the program.

Goal Setting is Collaborative and Patient-Focused

When expectations around trust and communication are in place, patients will feel more comfortable communicating about their comfort levels and pain, functional ability, insecurities and worries. With that information, the therapist and patient can work together to set realistic, mutually agreed upon goals, then design and adjust therapy programs based on this mutual understanding.

It Gets Results

When trust, communication, and goal setting are collaborative in nature, both patients and therapists will be more engaged, thus increasing the likelihood of more positive outcomes. It should come as no surprise, then that where strong patient-therapist collaboration is found, so, too, are consistently good results.

5 Strategies for Better Patient Advocacy

None of us make it through our lifetime without requiring medical care. Even if you were the unicorn that lived a full life without an injury, illness, or sore tooth, someone you know will require care. And whether it is you, a family member, or a friend, it’s important to understand how to be an advocate throughout the process. Because the importance of patient advocacy lies in its ability to enhance outcomes during medical care.

What is Patient Advocacy?

In the traditional sense of the word, patient advocates are people or organizations that interface with medical facilities, medical professionals, and even insurance companies on the behalf of patients. Patient advocates can assists with complicated decisions, such as insurance claims, tests, and procedures. Though there are professional patient advocacy providers, a family member, friend, or spouse can also fill this role.

How to Be a Patient Advocate for Yourself or a Family Member

When going through an injury or illness, it is easy to take all the information you receive from doctors and nurses as gospel. The experience can be overwhelming, after all. Yet inefficiencies, mistakes, and oversights do happen, especially when you consider the volume of patients that a given medical practitioner sees in a given day. And there are plenty of opportunities for patients or their advocates to provide context, additional information, and timely decision making to help facilitate better outcomes.

Here are five strategies to be a better patient advocate:

  • Ask questions – A lot of them. Resist the tendency to just go through the motions. Instead, ask nurses, doctors, therapists, and other medical staff about timelines, medications, procedures and test results.

  • Take notes – There is nothing wrong with taking notes while meeting with medical professionals. The volume of information around medication, treatment outlooks, and therapy recommendations can be overwhelming. Take notes and be sure to add timestamps so you can reference your notes later.

  • Do your research – Find credible information from reputable sources about conditions, illnesses, and injuries. This can help you ask informed questions and be realistic about treatment.

  • Lean on your support system – For some odd reason, people tend to shoulder burdens alone in times of need. It’s important to include family and friends during treatment, recovery, or rehabilitation. It introduces new perspectives on the matter and helps avoid burnout.

  • Be honest – The more that your physician, physical therapist, or nurse knows, the better equipped they are to provide accurate and effective care. Give them complete and accurate information whenever you can.

Good patient advocates ask not just what the physician’s objectives are for treatment—or what they recommend—but ask themselves what their own objectives and goals are. If you are advocating for yourself, say your objectives out loud. Write them down. Have a working understanding of these goals so that you can communicate them to your physician or physical therapist when the time comes.

Remember: physicians, physical therapists, and other medical professionals—though highly trained and talented—are not mind readers. They too benefit from an informed and engaged patient advocate.  

When a Parent Suffers a Stroke

There are certain phone calls we never want to get, especially as our parents age. Finding out that a parent has had a stroke is among the worst. Immediately the questions begin swirling. What kind of stroke and how severe was it? How much cognitive and motor function was lost?

What will the stroke recovery process look like?

All valid and important questions to ask after such a phone call, one that, unfortunately, is far too common. According to the Internet Stroke Center, stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

What to Do When a Family Member Has a Stroke

The stroke recovery process will begin in the hospital. Immediate and constant monitoring is usually necessary to help stabilize a stroke patient, assess the damage, and then develop a long-term plan for rehabilitation. This will involve a team of physicians, including neurologists, physical therapists, and other specialists. The time needed for convalescing will vary depending on the severity of the stroke.

As family members of a stroke victim, there are a few things we can do lend a hand throughout the stroke recovery process:

Be There for Them

At this time, it’s important to support the stroke victim. The easiest way to do so is to be by their side. Not only can you help them through this difficult time; but you can stay abreast of the latest information from the medical team, including outlook, treatment, and next steps.

Inform the Family

Reach out to family members to inform them of the event and to enlist their support. Visits. Food. A shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to. The stroke recovery process will “take a village,” and no single family member should be expected to shoulder the load alone.

Educate Yourself

Being able to identify stroke and understanding the treatment and recovery process will help you not only support your loved one, but cope with the trauma yourself. Here are some solid resources for stroke awareness and education:

Be an Advocate
Stroke education goes hand in hand with being an advocate for your parent after they suffer a stroke. In hospitals, the saying goes “squeaky wheel gets the oil first.” It’s up to you and your family to ask timely and relevant questions and communicate on behalf of the stroke victim. Stroke recovery is a long, multifaceted process—the opportunities for patient advocacy are plenty. Here are some considerations you’ll likely have to make:

  • Procedures or surgeries needed
  • Medication schedule
  • Fall risk and stroke repeat risk
  • Next step after the hospital
  • Home modifications
  • Post-discharge caregiving needs
  • Insurance considerations
  • Power of attorney
  • Living will and testament

What to Expect During Stroke Rehabilitation

Typically, stroke patients will transition from their inpatient care facility to either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. This is when the stroke patient begins the arduous work of relearning motor and speech skills, redeveloping cognitive function, and learning to live with any permanent damage caused by the stroke.

Stroke rehabilitation typically breaks down into three general areas:

  • Speech therapy 
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Physical therapy

During rehabilitation, therapists will make periodic assessments to help make recommendations for insurance companies, discharge, and post-therapy options. Therapists will also perform assessments on a patient’s ability to operate vehicles and return to work.

Because stroke events can severely affect balance and coordination, the rehabilitation process often includes specialized tools. The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ for example, is sometimes deployed during stroke rehabilitation to enable patients to exercise while limiting fall risk. Physical therapists can also use video monitoring to deliver fine-tuned therapy sessions.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

A wise doctor once said, “there are no minor strokes.” Every stroke is different, and every stroke patient will follow a different path to rehabilitation and recovery. It will never be easy—not for the patient, nor the patient’s family.

From the family’s perspective, there will be a lot of coping and psychological impact. Seeing a parent who was active for so many years lose function is tough. And there is a tendency for family members to shoulder more burden than is healthy or sustainable.

It is important that no one family member bear the burden alone. It’s also important to talk with other family members, seek support and additional information where necessary. Taking care of ourselves, leaning on the people close to use, and being good advocates are the best ways we can best support our parents through this difficult life event.

A Closer Look at Gait Assessment with AlterG Stride Smart Technology

To deliver the best patient care, clinicians need to stay up to date with the technology revolutionizing physical therapy. In our previous post, we took a look at Differential Air Pressure (DAP), the patented technology on which the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ is based. Continue reading “A Closer Look at Gait Assessment with AlterG Stride Smart Technology”

The Evolution of AlterG Technology and What it Means to You

Since our humble beginnings in 2005, AlterG® has come a long way. So too has the evolution of physical therapy, often progressing at a dizzying pace. In keeping with our commitment to being a pioneer in advanced rehabilitation technology, we’ve continued to add to and improve upon our suite of tools. Continue reading “The Evolution of AlterG Technology and What it Means to You”

3 Ways AlterG Technology is Changing Athletic Training and Rehab

In our previous post on modern technology revolutionizing athletic training and rehab, we took a closer look at the innovations helping PTs and athletes push the boundaries.

On our end, it’s usually the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ or AlterG Bionic Leg™ that grabs headlines. However, there are the three AlterG technologies that take these tools to the next level. They enable physical therapists and patients to be more effective during training and rehabilitation. Continue reading “3 Ways AlterG Technology is Changing Athletic Training and Rehab”