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Do “aches” stop you from exercising as you age?

December 12, 2012

Have you ever had an ache, or a pinch, or a glitch in a muscle or area of your body that you felt you would always just have to “cope with”?

Here is a short personal story about a problem I was facing.

I stretch often, teach my classes and am in motion quite a bit.  At age 58 I feel pretty good, yet I know I need to do more if I want to keep up with my classes, and stay ahead of my students, most of whom are seniors.

Recently I had the experience of dealing with a true pain in the neck.  Actually, it was a culmination of two years of waiting to see if the issue would just “go away” or my stretching would help to “work itself out”.  The problem and associated pains chose not leave as I was never really addressing the problem.  I hit all around it, just not the right area or the right way.

Over the last year it became even more aggravating, and beginning to affect my teaching I knew I had to do something else.  So, with the pain and limited movement persisting I broke down (literally) and found a very good physical therapist who uses the McKenzie Method for spine and neck issues.  It is a process based on targeting and stretching specific areas.

After 8 visits the problem is well on it’s way out the door,  the pain is all but gone leaving  just a bit more work to get the range of motion back to where it needs to be.

The interesting thing is the resulting feeling,  or better yet lack of “feeling” that I am left with. The smoothness of movement, the lack of tension in the area and the associated twinges that are gone makes it seem like there was never anything wrong.

Granted, for this particular problem I needed to see a specialist.  However in my daily practice of stretching I see more range of movement with each exercise I do.  Each has become smoother, more fluid and more controlled.  I see this with my senior students also

For seniors, the idea of movement to help regain or maintain an active lifestyle fits into this same mold.  There are so many aches and pains that accompany aging that many older adults stop moving, or feel they need to stop due to aches.  This is where programs based on gentle movement such as Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates modified for older adults can make a huge difference.

I have found that providing programs which seniors are able to do and see immediate benefits, regardless of their age or abilities helps to motivate them to do more.  As they improve and are able to move just a bit easier, expand their range of motion and have less pain, I have seen my students push a little harder.

Have you tried to push past what keeps you from staying as active as you would like, or have you settled for doing less, just because?

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