Regular exercise improves health, slows the effects of aging.
Gerry Burditt, 64, took action when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis about three years ago.
She was inspired by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, 70, who was diagnosed with osteopenia, an early stage of osteoporosis, in 1996. Richards had suspected she had the disease, which is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Her mother had suffered from the disease and Richards wanted to know if she had it. Once Richards found out she had the disease, she immediately made changes to improve her health. She started lifting weights and working out in a gym. Then she crisscrossed the nation telling her story and raising awareness about osteoporosis. Her book about her struggle, I’m Not Giving Up, was published in 2003.
After Burditt was diagnosed, she called Baptist Rehabilitation in Cordova and asked for help to develop a fitness plan. That was two years ago. Ever since, she has exercised at the facility every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for one hour each session. Her workout consists of cardiovascular exercise, upper and lower body strength training, and balance and coordination work.
Burditt had always lived an active life — raising three boys, helping her husband operate their business, working actively in her yard, and volunteering in the community. But she had never exercised on a consistent, regular basis.
“I always felt I didn’t have time,” Burditt said. “Now I treat my workouts like a job. I never miss unless I am out of town.”
When she started going to Baptist Rehabilitation, she thought she was in great shape. She soon found she had balance problems and her cardiovascular fitness and body strength needed work as well. But Burditt never gave up and her perseverance has paid off. Medical tests show her bone density has significantly increased. She is building bone rather than losing it. Her story proves it is never too late to start a regular exercise routine.
“Everybody needs to try this,” Burditt said. “They (Baptist Rehabilitation) opened my eyes.”
Age should not be a limiting factor for beginning an exercise program. Every person, but particularly those 60 and older, should have a check-up with a physician before starting an exercise program. The doctor will consider any health problems, medications, or other conditions that may determine what type of exercise program is best.
The American Heart Association recommends that even moderate amounts of physical acitivity can have significant health benefits for older adults. For older adults, this moderate amount of activity can come from:
- Longer sessions of moderately intense activities such as walking or swimming.
- Shorter sessions of more vigorous activities such as fast walking or stair climbing.
- Greater amounts of physical activity (longer duration, higher intensity or more frequent) can bring additional benefits. But it should not be done excessively, or injury may result.
Muscle-strengthening exercises are important, too. As people age, they begin to lose bone and muscle mass, which accelerates considerably after age 50. In older adults, muscle-strengthening exercises should focus on multi-joint or “full-body” exercises – those that use different muscle groups rather than focusing on one.
Benefits of strength training also include improved bone health and reductions in risk for osteoporosis, improved posture, reduced risk of falling, increased flexibility and range of motion, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This type of exercise also improves the ability to perform daily tasks. The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is due, in part, to reduced physical activity.
Burditt said she benefited from having a trained professional design her program and work with her during each session. The staff was a constant source of encouragement, she said. “I couldn’t do this by myself. I need the support and encouragement. The staff is very caring. I can’t say enough about them.”
Baptist Rehabilitation has several fitness programs. You can meet with a specialist at its facility in Cordova for a fee which includes 12 sessions. Baptist Rehabilitation-Germantown offers several types of classes, including Tai Chi, Pilates, osteoporosis fitness, and aquatics. For more information, please call (901) 624-8672.
Published: October 31, 2005
Source: Baptist Rehabiliation; Gerry Burditt; American Heart Association; American College of Sports Medicine
Writer: Writer: Elizabeth Todd Bartholomew, MA, APR