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The importance of exercise in mid-life, the associated risks or concerns one should have, & what can we do to improve the ‘exercise experience’ in mid-life?

Exercise is important at all stages of life, however greater emphasis on regular exercise during mid-life is critical to prevent the loss of function and ultimately independence later in life.  Mid-life exercise is important to reduce the effects of age-related changes within the body.  As we age, our bodies gradually lose strength, lean muscle mass and bone mass, in addition to an increase in fat mass.  This combination, unless intervened, will often accelerate during the mid to late life period.   One way we can combat and slow the effects of ageing is through exercise.   

The benefits of low-load exercise in mid-life individuals include the ability to participate and move without the same effect as high-load exercise, which involves a greater demand on the body and consequently may lead to injury and pain.  Low-load exercise reduces the demand on the body, while creating adequate stimulus for change to combat age related changes and maintain function.  Often individuals in mid-life have or are managing one or more musculoskeletal issues, are frequenting physiotherapists and other allied health professions, so finding an exercise modality that targets deficits, and at the same time avoids aggravation of symptoms is important.  Osteoarthritic changes, often in knees, are a common finding in mid-life individuals.  Low-load exercise has been shown to be beneficial to function, joint pain and quality of life.  Pilates, cycling, and the Alter-G treadmill are all low-load exercise modalities which offer individuals in mid-life an option to exercise without aggravation of current or prior symptoms.  You can find out about each of these modalities by talking to a physiotherapist!

Pilates performed on a reformer or mat, focuses on all aspect of movement and function, beginning with deep core activation and a focus on correct movement patterns, with exercises that are adjustable for all levels of function and skill.

Cycling is a good alternative for individuals unable to run due to joint related pain, and for those who are progressing from a sedentary level of exercise, due to lifestyle or  injury, with an aim of increasing their bodies performance in day to day function.  Alternatively, the Alter-G: an anti-gravity treadmill developed by NASA, is a relatively new piece of equipment here at our physio clinic Evoker, in the Sydney CBD that is made available for individuals who experience musculoskeletal dysfunction or pain with walking and running.  Alter-G allows the individual to reduce their bodyweight to their required level, to enable pain free walking and running on the treadmill.  The Alter-G is revolutionary for rehabilitation and a must for individuals in mid-life seeking to improve their function and exercise in a pain free environment.

Before an individual decides to commence a new form of exercise, a musculoskeletal screening performed by a physiotherapist is recommended to clear a body for movement and load, or to raise any flags of concern. This will assist in the direction of what, when and how to implement exercise.  We very often see that a sudden, sharp increase in exercise volume or intensity, or change to the exercise itself, will result in an increased risk of injury or aggravation of symptoms.  Individual, specifically tailored programs that slowly and gradually introduce a new form of exercise is recommended for safety in mid-life.

Some basic rules to be guided by:

  1. Always be guided by pain
  2. Pain after exercise, or the following day is also to be respected
  3. Increase your exercise volume or time, before speed
  4. Plot a graduated increase in exercises from week to week – a 10% increase in volume, and then speed, is a good place to start

For further information please reach out to us at Evoker on 0292522433

Sean Wickens, Physiotherapist, Evoker, Sydney CBD.