On Tuesday evening, February 14, Navigating the Medical System featured a virtual lecture on exercise and staying fit for older adults. The lecture was hosted by Congregation Etz Chaim.

Dr. Mel Breite, Director and Founder of the lecture series, welcomed everyone and shared how exercise is such a key factor for overall good health.

The first speaker, Erika Lanta, physical therapist at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital, shared some important information about exercise for older adults. She said “older” is considered ages 50-64 or 65 and older. Generally, as we age there is a decline in muscle function and in cardiovascular function. There is also reduced metabolism and a decline in pulmonary function. Exercise is defined as planned, studied, repetitive movement to improve physical health. Exercise can improve health and life expectancy. She advised people to do 30 minutes a day of exercise: five days of exercise that include two days of muscle strengthening and also balance activities, like walking backward and forward and standing on one leg.

Jee Yoon Chong, MS, OTR/L, CHT, CLT, shared that aerobic exercise is repetitive movement of large muscles like brisk walking. Regular walking can reduce fractures in 30-50 percent of older adults, and it’s not too hard to do. Swimming is easy on joints, and it improves heart health and muscle flexibility. It also helps reduce the risk of falling. She said that yard work, dancing, and light aerobic spin bicycling also strengthen muscles. You need to move your body against resistance or weight. You can use your own body weight for resistance by doing sit-ups or push-ups. Also, some forms of yoga give you resistance.

She noted that balance training is a good way to reduce the risk of falls. “Falls are the leading cause of hospitalization in older adults.” One goal of exercise is to reduce the risk of falls. Tai Chi is an excellent form of balance exercise. You can see people practicing this in many of the local parks. She cautioned that balance exercises should only be performed if you don’t have any balance issues.

She then spoke about wearing the correct attire for exercise. It should be comfortable and loose-fitting and material that allows your skin to breathe and that lets moisture evaporate. Your shoes should have flat, nonstick soles with support in the heel and an arch that is not too thick and with room for your toes. Worn-out shoes can cause problems. She advised that you consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. “All exercise should be pain-free. If you experience pain while exercising, then stop.”

She then shared that the most difficult part of exercising is staying motivated. Choose activities that you enjoy. Find a way to fit exercise into your daily routine. Make it social by finding an exercise buddy. Keep track of your progress and reward yourself for your accomplishments.

Studies show that longevity results from a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, and having a social network of family and friends.

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital offers PT, OT, lymphedema, therapy, and speech therapy.

There is a clinic in Flushing, two out-clinics in Fresh Meadows, and one in Jackson Heights. For any questions, you can call 1-855-377-3422.

By Susie Garber