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February 2018

How Physical Therapy Helps Retirees Keep Dreams Alive During the Golden Years

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How Physical Therapy Helps Retirees Keep Dreams Alive During the Golden Years

Are you among the millions of Americans who have high aspirations for how you’ll spend the extra time during your post-retirement years? Whether you plan to travel the world, pick up fly fishing, spend more time woodworking or sign up for a golf league, your physical fitness level will be a factor.

One study suggests that the fitness declines we typically attribute to advancing age are largely caused by living sedentary lifestyles—which are on the rise due to the prominence of desk jobs in the workplace and activity-limiting personal technologies including smart phones and voice-activated remote controls in the home. Still, this runs contrary to the widely held belief that any declines in our physical abilities are caused solely by biological aging. Do we really have control over how active we’ll be in our “golden years”?

In a word, absolutely. The study—which examined 900,000 running times of marathon and half-marathon participants aged 20 to 79—found no significant age-related performance declines in those younger than 55 years old, and only moderate declines among the older cohorts. In fact, more than one-quarter of runners aged 65 to 69 were faster than half of the runners aged 20 to 54.

And for those thinking that these runners must have been lifelong enthusiasts of the sport, the study revealed that 25% of runners aged 50 to 69 were relative newcomers—and had started marathon training within the previous 5 years. The researchers concluded that even at an advanced age, people in the “non-athlete” category who engage in regular training can reach high performance levels.

If this revelation is intriguing, then perhaps it’s time for you to get moving! If you aren’t currently active, then you likely have questions and concerns about where to start. And if you regularly engage in physical activities, then you’ve probably set goals that you’d like to achieve. Either way, there’s no shortage of tools and resources to help you live a more active lifestyle but one reliable place to start is with a physical therapist.

The benefits of beginning with a physical therapist consultation are many: PTs are trained to assess your abilities and limitations, consider your health concerns, demonstrate safe exercises and build a plan to increase strength, function and mobility. Whatever your passion is, physical therapy will help you be fit and injury-free so you may enjoy life’s many pursuits.

Mike Klobucher, i'move physical therapist, on the True Stretch

Does stretching really work?

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Does stretching even work?

by Mike Klobucher

Walk into a gym and you’re bound to see a lot of stretching going on. I think most of us seem to believe it is important or “good to do.” In fact, a lot of people tell me they “should stretch” even if they admit to not doing it regularly. So, it is assumed then that there are some benefits to stretching with the obvious one cited being increased range of motion or movement ability. But does that actually happen – does stretching work? The simple answer: it can. Baking a cake can turn out…if you have the right ingredients, just like stretching can yield results with the right ingredients. Here’s the recipe:

Load or Overload – The loading of the tissues being stretched needs to be greater than those we experience in normal daily activities and probably to the point of slight discomfort (not pain). Overloading does not mean torturing yourself but should be a gradual or graded progression and could include increasing the force, range, speed, and/or duration of the stretching exercise/activity.

Repetition – How much and how often should we stretch to make a real, permanent change? No one knows for sure, but probably a lot. Particularly if you are not limited by pain, then the longer and more frequently you stretch, the more effective it will be. Lasting improvements in range of motion take weeks or months of dedicated work, so the more you can incorporate range of motion challenges into your daily life, the better.

Specificity – In simple terms we get better at what we practice, so practice/stretch specifically for the movements you want to improve. The more similar the exercise to the task, the more likely it will transfer to improvements in the goal task. Studies have shown that while long-term stretching has been shown to improve range of motion, those gains are not observed during functional tasks (i.e. walking) if not practiced.

Active Movement – It seems like an obvious statement but in order to get better at moving you have to in fact move. Passive, sustained stretching can indeed have a place in restoring mobility particularly when there are barriers to active movement such as pain or post-surgical restrictions. However, in order for your stretching to ultimately transfer into improved performance or movement ability there needs to be an active component.

Goal-Oriented Movement – Stretching individual muscles or tissues is not very plausible and more likely impossible at least partially due to the vast array of intertwined connective tissues that bind us together. In addition, the body doesn’t function in that manner normally. We move to accomplish tasks or goals, and because this is the way our body creates and controls movement, it makes logical sense to train our range of motion with goal-oriented movement that resembles the tasks we are trying to improve (i.e. squatting, running, etc.). Back in 1889 neurologist Hughlings Jackson reminded, “the brain knows nothing of muscles, it knows only movement.” We would be wise not to forget that as we try to improve our movement ability with stretching.

So in summary, yes stretching can and does work as long as you are patient enough to continue loading the tissues over and over again for a long time actively in a manner that is similar to the movement you are trying to improve.