Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

5 Ways to Avoid Injuries When Running

ThinkstockPhotos-516819890.jpgIt seems that running injuries are all too common. There have been many research studies done on runners and, each year, as many as 79% of runners are sidelined due to injuries. Here are 5 ways to avoid injuries when running.

1. Add Strength Training

Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons can guard against the impact of running, lead to improved running form, and help you achieve a more consistent gait. When the body is strong, the brain is able to tell the muscles to brace for impact before your foot even hits the ground. The glutes and the core contract, in order to, steady the pelvis and the leg. The foot and ankle muscles are activated, providing a solid foundation for your heel strike. Many runners lack strength in at least one muscle group. When one stabilizer muscle is weak, the other muscles make accommodations for the weakness and therefore can become overworked. This can create a “domino effect” in the body and cause an injury or injuries.

2. Always Warm-Up AND Cool Down

A warm-up prepares the body for exercise, by increasing the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. Then, just as the warm-up prepares the body, the cool down brings it back to its normal state. The time spent warming up and cooling down helps prevent muscle soreness and aids in recovery, both of which will help prepare the body for your next run.

3. Use Correct Form

There are many disagreements amongst runners about what defines correct running form. Just as baseball players swing a bat, or a guitarist plays a guitar, there may be some variance in form from runner to runner. But, there is some common ground, and most can agree that certain components of form, such as, good posture and proper stride, can help prevent injury. For proper posture: Be sure to keep the upper torso straight and the head directly over the shoulders. DO NOT arch the lower back. For proper stride: Avoid over-striding, which is when the foot lands well ahead of the knee. Overstriding can put extra wear and tear on the muscles and joints. Try to focus on where your foot is landing and place it close to the body. Instead of reaching with the foot, try to drive forward with the knee.

4. Wear Proper Footwear

Shoes can alter your running form and have an impact on the amount of force that is applied to the joints with each step. Professional running stores may be a good place to start when trying to find the right shoe for you, but the best indication is how the shoe feels. If it doesn’t feel good, then it’s putting stress somewhere. If you experience aches and pains after a run, it may be a good indication that you’re not in the right shoe. You may need to try a few pairs before you find the right shoe for you. Also, be sure to change your shoes often. Running shoe should be replaced every 350-450 miles.

5. Avoid the terrible "too's"

Don't do too much, too soon, too often, too fast, too hard, with too little rest.  Listen to your body and ease into it and rest when needed.

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Topics: exercise running injury prevention

Senior Fitness: What is the point of exercising?

As we age, we get this notion that we no longer need to exercise, or as the common adage says, “I’m too old.” To put it bluntly, you are never too old to exercise or be active. No matter your condition, one of the best things you can do is to get up and move. Years of research has shown that exercising has tremendous health benefits, no matter what your age is! Exercising has shown to improve balance and coordination, prevent bone loss, increase strength, improve cognitive function, and decrease chronic illnesses such as diabetes. With this in mind, here are few senior wellness myths that older adults believe when it comes to exercising.

What is the point of exercising when decline in old age is inescapable?ThinkstockPhotos-494387649.jpg

Aging does not mean decline; it means another chapter in life with new challenges to overcome. There are numerous stories of older adults becoming marathon runners like Ed Whitlock, who ran marathons well into his 80s. While running a marathon may not be your goal, it does show you that age does not matter. The delusion is that aging means weakness and/or fatigue, but in reality it’s a sign of inactivity. More importantly, exercising and staying active can help you maintain your independence and your lifestyle.

At my age, is exercise really safe for me?

Yes, exercise is safe for you. Again it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Moreover, studies have shown that individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to fall. In part this is because exercising improves strength, flexibility, and coordination. Two of the better exercises that target flexibility and coordination are tai chi and yoga. Additionally, exercising frequently will increase bone density and decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis. 

I have a chronic disease, so I shouldn’t exercise.

Many older adults suffer from arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions. And because of it, older adults believe that they can no longer exercise. In fact, the opposite is true. Exercising and being physically active is the best thing to do. For example, if you have arthritis, exercising will help improve your range of motion and decrease the pain caused by arthritis, which will lead to increased energy levels and improved sleep. Additionally, if you happen to have arthritis, here are a few tips to get started before exercising:

  • Apply heat: This will help the blood flow and relax the muscles around the affected area.
  • Move gently: Move slowly to warm up the joints. You may want to do this between 5 and 10 minutes before moving on to strength and aerobic activities.
  • Ice: After performing your exercises, apply ice as needed to help prevent joint swelling.

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If you are just starting out with senior fitness, make sure not to overdo it. It’s alright to start off slowly and to work your way up in intensity, especially if you have not been exercising for a few years or decades. The goal is to get moving and to create a habit that becomes a lifestyle. Also expect to experience soreness after beginning a program. However if you experience pain, you may have exercised too hard and will want to tone it down. 

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Topics: senior wellness balance senior fitness staying active injury prevention osteoporosis

Compression Stockings: Not Just for Swollen Ankles and Seniors

ThinkstockPhotos-177502133.jpgCompression stockings are used for a variety of reasons, one of which is to reduce fluid pooling within the lower extremities; and to protect against the potential for developing phlebitis and thrombosis, which can eventually lead to the formation of life-threatening blood clots (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). Many athletes of all abilities can even be seen wearing compression sleeves and stockings, with the idea that the compression aids in athletic performance.

Ankle Swelling Causes and Effects

The sensation of swollen ankles is often described as a burning or itching feeling, or even as having your legs feel achy or tired. If you have leakage of fluid from your capillaries and it is not resorbed back into your bloodstream, this may result in the swelling of your ankles or feet. However, if you can increase the pressure in and around the capillaries, it is far more likely that the fluid will be resorbed back into the lymph system and naturally eliminated by the body. When there is less pooling of fluid in the legs, the result is increased blood flow in the legs back up toward the heart.

Compression stockings may also be worn following surgery to lower the risk of developing a blood clot, or for any period of time when someone is less active. A doctor may actually prescribe compression stockings if you have varicose or spider veins, or if you have just had surgery for them. Both Sigvaris and Jobst (makers of graduated compression stockings) even note the health benefit of wearing them for travel. Take this into consideration: sitting for a four-hour period or longer can increase your risk for DVT by four times, regardless of your lifestyle, age, or weight. (Here are some ideas for breaking up your sitting time.)

How to Wear Compression Stockings

Listen to your doctor’s recommendations as to how to wear your compression socks and for how long. Some general guidelines are the following:

  • Put your stockings on in the morning.
  • Roll the stocking down and slide it onto your foot to the heel and then roll it up the rest of the leg.
  • Ensure that there are no wrinkles in the stocking after placement, and smooth out any that may have developed while you were rolling it on.
  • Knee-length stockings should come up to two fingers below the bend of the knee.
  • DO NOT stop wearing compression stockings before consulting with your doctor first.

Always talk to your doctor about wearing compression stockings first to ensure proper use, and be sure to report any discomfort you may have while wearing them. 

Compression stockings come in a variety of strengths, ranging from light to strong pressure. Compression stockings are graduated in strength, meaning that the greatest compression is found in and around the ankle with the pressure progressively decreasing up and around the calf. The stockings also come in a variety of fun colors and styles. Trained professionals can best size and fit you based on your specific need.

For more information, talk to your healthcare professional or visit the manufacturers’ websites (Jobst and Sigvaris).

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Topics: injury prevention sitting blood clots travel DVT seniors

What Exercises Should I Do?: Guidelines for Senior Fitness (Part 3)

In my first and second blogs of the series, I went over four of my guidelines to being successful in fitness:

  1. Muscle-Activation Exercises
  2. Simplistic Exercises
  3. Compound, Multi-joint, Closed-chain Movements
  4. Grip Exercises

In this third blog, I discuss another guideline.  

Guideline 5: Mobility WorkThinkstockPhotos-474645128.jpg

Mobility is the ability to move freely, pain free, and without issue throughout the range of motion of a particular joint. For instance, a client may have an issue getting into the position to do an exercise such as the sit-to-stand. One of the issues I see is related to tight ankles, which is a very common problem. With tight ankles, if the chair is in a low position, the client won't be able to keep their heels on the ground and will shift their weight to the front of the foot, opening the door to a fall or knee injury. To fix this area, I focus on three spots: range-of-motion exercises, stretching exercises (whether it is static or dynamic), and myofascial release exercises.

While stretching is important, too much of it may lead to joint laxity, which could lead to injury. Range-of-motion exercises, such as pointing and flexing with the foot, rolling the ankle around in full circles, and even calf raises will move the joint in its full range of motion and warm up the joints and muscles, which will allow for better stretching and injury prevention. Lastly, myofascial release will help loosen up that gristly tissue, which will lead to more mobility, therefore leading to increased performance, less injury, and better results.

Obviously, many CCRC residents won't be able to do foam rolling by using a foam roller on the floor, and I certainly don’t recommend that. Therefore, I recommend two tools: a mobility stick, which allows the resident to access problem spots on their own from a comfortable position, and a tennis ball, which is small enough to target certain spots, but not so hard that it may hurt too much, as myofascial release is always a bit uncomfortable. The tennis ball can be used while lying on an elevated mat or exercise table, or even used as a tool to loosen up the upper body by placing the ball on a wall and gently pressing the ball into the problem spot, such as the chest or mid back.

While mobility is an issue that affects many areas of the body, lack of ankle mobility is a common problem that I've seen, and you can apply the same mobility principles to many different areas other than the ankles.

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In my next blog, I give you my sixth and final guideline: Changing exercise variables.

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Topics: CCRC senior fitness stretching injury prevention mobility myofascial release foam rolling

Balance and Fall Prevention: How to Fall and Get Back Up Safely

ThinkstockPhotos-494387335.jpgMarch is Balance and Fall Prevention Month for the National Institute for Fitness and Sports (NIFS) Active Aging sites. Although this is an important component of exercise for all age groups year round, NIFS spotlights balance and fall prevention for a month-long program and showcases the various challenges and solutions to balance issues, as well as how to stay ahead of the balance curve.

Our senior living communities provide educational presentations and handouts for residents to help with fall prevention. One such handout is a home safety checklist to ensure that your surroundings are as fall-proof as possible. The Home Safety Checklist can be a great resource to make safe changes around your home by doing things like making sure small rugs and runners are slip resistant, providing good lighting—especially in hallways, passageways between rooms, and other heavy-traffic areas—and keeping exits and passageways clear. These are just a few of the suggestions. What else has worked for you?

How to Prevent Injuries When Falling

The objective of NIFS Balance Challenge is to prevent falls, but let’s say you suddenly find yourself falling. Remembering these tips and safely practicing how to fall can be the difference between a bruise and a broken bone:

  • Never try to prevent the fall itself. Instead, stay relaxed to prevent further injury.
  • Bend your knees, or crouch, during a fall.
  • Turn/twist your body so you can fall onto the outside of your lower leg first. If you cannot twist your body, NEVER try to catch yourself with your hands as it can break your wrists.
  • Instead, smack the ground with your hand(s) to lessen the impact of the fall.
  • Roll onto your backside to allow the muscles to dissipate energy and lower the impact force.
Fear is often the biggest obstacle when it comes to falling. Having a game plan and practicing the correct falling form can train your body how to safely fall and maximize injury prevention.

After You Fall

  • After a fall, you are probably feeling shaken up and scared. Take a moment to make sure you are alright and that nothing is broken. Wiggle your fingers and toes and then begin to feel other parts of your body as you regain your bearings. If you are feeling okay, remember these helpful tips for safely getting up from a fall:
  • Roll over naturally to your side so your stronger arm is facing up.
  • Place your inside arm on the ground at chest level and place your outside palm on the ground to lift your upper body.
  • With both hands flat on the ground, lift your hips from the ground so that you are on all fours.
  • Crawl to the nearest, most steady piece of furniture (such as a chair, couch, or countertop).
  • Place both hands on the furniture and use your stronger leg by placing your foot flat on the ground in front of your body. 
  • Pull yourself up slowly; sit, if possible.
  • Do not let anyone lift you unless they are trained to do so.
  • Use your pendant or make noise for help if you cannot get yourself up.

These are just a few of the topics that the professionals at NIFS present at senior living communities across the country. This education folds in well with weekly balance classes and individualized balance exercises that are available year round for seniors. 

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Topics: senior wellness active aging senior living balance fall prevention injury prevention

The Power of Massage Therapy in Senior Wellness

senior_back_painI am a firm believer in massage therapy because a little over a year ago, I woke up in agonizing lower-back pain that did not allow me to move. My first thought was maybe I should go see a chiropractor. I had been to one before, but was not the biggest fan because they cracked my back and sent me on my way after charging $65. 

This time, I did my research and found a well-rounded practice that offered a full evaluation prior to the treatment to be sure they could help me and not further injure my back. Here, they first did a 30-minute session with a massage therapist, applied heat while rolling the back, and then I saw the chiropractor. In my situation, I needed the full run-through. Now that my injury is better, I can maintain the relief with strength exercises, stretching, and massage. 

So when I began working at a senior living community and found that the community had a regularly visiting massage therapist, I thought, “How very lucky we are to have a certified massage therapist!” She has her own room and setup that the resident can enjoy, or she can meet them at their apartment if that is more comfortable for them. I have found, though, that many CCRC residents do not take advantage of this resource just because they aren’t fully educated on the benefits.

How Often Should You Visit a Therapist?

Believe it or not, it can be to your greatest advantage to visit a massage therapist a two or three times a month. Often, it is thought that massage is a luxury visit to a spa once in a blue moon for some rest and relaxation. While it is great for that, massage is something that can be done in a less expensive setting and more often so that you can reap the benefits. 

What Is Massage?

What exactly is massage? Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing, and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The combination of movements and sequence in which the therapist works is meant to alleviate pain, reduce the stress we carry in that area, and treat a wide variety of conditions. And the great thing? If it isn’t your cup of tea, you can just forget about it and try something else. 

Types of Massage

There are different variations of massage, depending on what the need is. Need relaxation? You’ll want a Swedish massage. Have a pain in the low back? You may need a deep-tissue or trigger-point massage. The great thing is, the massage therapist will know which is likely best for your situation. 

Benefits of Massage Therapy

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Here are some additional benefits of massage therapy.

Ask Your Doctor

One last thing, massage isn’t meant to replace regular care from your physician, and when a member complains of a pain that sounds most like a muscle or ligament pain, I suggest they ask their doctor whether seeing a massage therapist would be a good idea. 

When Massage Might Not Be a Good Idea

If one of these is something you suffer from, massage may not be right for you: 

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns, open or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia

Before I go, I want to encourage you to take a look at this alternative medicine and the role it can play in senior wellness. It has relatively low risk and can be very beneficial. Does your community offer this onsite? Would you like for them to? If you have a leisure services or wellness department, that might be the place to start. 

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community stress relief injury prevention massage

5 Tips for Ensuring Senior Safety on Exercise Equipment

senior_on_treadmillFor any individual exercising, it is important to understand that there is some risk of injury, especially when working on a treadmill, elliptical, or weight machines. For the senior population, this is more pronounced, as the body is more prone to falls and other injuries from working with machines. So how does one avoid the risk of injury when working on a piece of exercise equipment?

Working with the senior population has taught me a great deal about injury prevention and risk that is important in the senior-aged population. For example, not every piece of equipment is safe for every individual, regardless of skill and ability. Due to this, safety is always first and you should consider the needs of each individual when working with senior clients. 

Following are five tips you should consider when working with your piece of equipment. There are safety features for every machine, so pay close attention to these tips.

1. Know Your Treadmill

One of the most commonly prescribed exercises for seniors is walking. It is an activity that can be done every day, and there is evidence to suggest it helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, and helps maintain lean body mass. Due to this, treadmill walking is very popular. 

For the senior population, it is especially important to make sure everyone is safe from falls and injury, which is why treadmill safety is a high priority in many gyms with seniors. For general safety, remember to look forward at all times, keep the arms swinging as you normally would with your usual gait, and slowly increase your speed. For more on treadmill safety, check out this checklist of safety tips for treadmills.

2. Adjust Your Bike

An indoor bike and outdoor bike are similar in that they require proper adjusting prior to use. For a recumbent bike, remember to adjust the bike in a good position so that your feet are not reaching too far forward when pedaling. Make sure to adjust the back seat (if possible) so you can maintain a good posture during your ride. If it is a challenge to maintain good posture due to aching backs or medical procedures, try your best to adjust the seat appropriately or have your trainer help you.

3. Adjust the NuStep

Adjusting your NuStep is similar to adjusting your bike. Make sure that your feet are not reaching too far forward, and make sure that when you are pedaling your knees have a little bend. In addition to these adjustments, you can set your time and pace, and maintain an individualized ride, by adjusting a few settings. The NuStep is one of the safest pieces of equipment for seniors, and it can give a great workout for the upper body, lower body, or a combination of both.

4. Adjust Weight Machines 

Adjusting the weight machines is probably the only aspect in adjusting that needs good attention to detail, especially for the senior population. Some machines require adjusting seats, legs, arms, and back rests, and you will also need to adjust the weight stacks. For any senior starting out on exercise machines, it is best to have an exercise physiologist or trainer adjust the settings with you in order to have everything where it should be. In addition, correct adjustments will make your exercises more effective and can help eliminate injury.

5. Adjust the Biodex Balance Machine

Adjusting this machine requires primarily knowing where to place your feet each time you step on it. As a critical aspect in senior fitness, balance training will help work on balance, and this means working the mind, eyes, ankles, and feet. With a correct adjustment on a balance machine such as the Biodex balance training system, you will be ready to safely explore this aspect of your training to help prevent and reduce falls.

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If you have any special tips for equipment safety and would like to share, please add them to the comments section below. We are always looking for personal experiences with equipment adjustments, and any additional tips are valuable.

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Topics: balance senior fitness exercise for elderly injury prevention safety