What Are Therapeutic Exercises?
No matter the condition of the patient, staying immobile can only worsen the situation. There is a need for the movement now and then to fire up the body and improve blood circulation. An active body, no matter how weak, responds fast to remedial measures.
After the physiotherapists have evaluated the patient, they then design an exercise program that can aid in recovery. The knowledge of biochemical and immunological reactions that our personnel gathers from the patient are in handy to guide. Furthermore, the use of human science exercise physiology, anatomy, and kinesiology are other vital guidelines.
Therapeutic exercise is, in everyday language, the movement of the body designed to vitalize your well-being and health, revive the function of the musculoskeletal system, correct deformity, and, to some degree, stabilize focus and mood.
Who Should Undergo Therapeutic Exercises?
While anyone can benefit from the therapeutic exercises, the exercises are designed to help mainly:
- People with balance problems
- Those who are bedridden
- Those who try to cope with stroke/paralysis
- Victims of obesity and diabetes mellitus
- People suffering from multiple sclerosis or osteoporosis
- Victims of neuromuscular disorders, which includes Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
It should be noted that in cases of patients who are mainly immobilized or bedridden, a physiotherapist should always be at hand to assist with the exercises. Our physiotherapist may provide active support, in which case he guides the patient in controlling a specific muscle. Alternatively, the support can be passive, whereby the patient or a device controls the muscles’ movements.
Benefits of Therapeutic Exercises
Therapeutic exercises have been proven to:
- Improve coordination
- Help mobilize the joints
- Improve the blood circulation
- Enable ambulation
- Help reduce rigidity
- Help maintain stability or balance
- Improve one’s muscle strength
- Promote relaxation
- Improve endurance (functional capacity) and exercise performance
- Help release contracted muscles, fascia and tendons
- Improve muscle strength and achieve maximal voluntary contractile force (MVC).
Regardless of which exercise regimen one is enrolled to, the end result has to be to an optimal level of physical fitness.
Types of Therapeutic Exercises for seniors
There are four main categories of therapeutic exercises designed to improve the strength, flexibility, stability, and endurance of the senior. The physiotherapist may add to the program certain activities that a particular senior loves to undertake. For instance, a habitual swimmer who has arthritis may be assigned swimming exercises with therapeutic value, like in increasing the range of motion.
Each therapeutic exercise decided must be tailored with the specific individual in mind. If the senior has standing problems, his exercises should be modified to suit his sitting posture. If it is weight lifting, he can be made to sit instead of standing. Seniors with blood pressure or osteoarthritis should not be held in long exercise sessions without rest at intervals.
This is performed to strengthen the muscle tissue. It usually involves graded exercises that consist of resistance training. It is especially a valuable exercise for most seniors, many of whom typically lose 20-40 percent of their muscle tissue as they get older. Strength training can be moderate or high in intensity, depending on individual needs.
In most cases, high-intensity strength training consists of free weights. The patient is made to swing them. The patient can also be directed to move through machines or a distance that use air pressure or weights that he pushes against. The repeated lifting motion or pushing gradually works to train the muscles. In the case of an elderly patient in good health, a fitness machine can be set around 60-80 percent of the one-repetition maximum. It is the weight such a person can lift once.
As for the elderly patients generally in good condition, performing two sets of 10 repetitions each is recommended. Cuff weights can be used and are attached to wrists or ankles. This is done on several various machines in the course of a strength training workout, about twice a week. If this is maintained for one year, a senior’s strength can be improved by 30-150 percent.
On the other hand, moderate-intensity strength training will improve a senior’s strength by 10-20 percent. In this case, calisthenics is used. These exercises depend on the body’s weight for resistance. They include favorite exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and squats.
Cuff weights can be used and are attached to wrists or ankles. These exercises work well for weak elderly patients. The seniors can also benefit from them. They are well-known because they are simple, require ordinary equipment, and can be done at home, away from a gym.
Flexibility training is essential in improving the range of motion of the muscles. It is done slowly and under control, being mainly low-intensity concerning the level of aerobic fitness or strength required. Many seniors tend to enjoy these flexibility exercises, for the overall well-being benefits that come with them.
Flexibility exercises mainly involve stretches. In stretches, the seniors will slowly move their body into the required posture and remain motionless for 10-30 seconds.
But flexibility exercises should come after endurance and strength exercises. The first two helps to warm up the muscles in readiness for flexibility exercises. It is advised that seniors should move gently and gradually instead of bouncing or jerking into position.
Some of the flexibility exercises include:
- Hip and shoulder rotations.
- Stretches of the triceps muscles in the upper arm.
- Hamstring stretches.
- Calf and ankle stretches.
- Yoga and T’ai chi are also often recommended as part of flexibility training for seniors. Many people enjoy them because they are entertaining and encourage socialization for they can be done with a group of friends or as a section of a class.
It is the best form of exercise with more therapeutic benefits for seniors. It includes walking, which is the most doctors frequently recommend. Most seniors also prefer walking as a form of endurance exercise; in fact, close to 50 percent of seniors walk for exercise.
It is the easiest to implement; after all, walking forms part of many seniors’ daily schedule of errands — a walk to the store, post office, church, etc., instead of driving or taking a matatu. A study has shown that seniors who take a walk for at least 2 miles in a day averagely increase their longevity by 50 percent.
Other useful forms of endurance exercise include:
- Walking up the stairs
- Golf (the walking part)
- Low-impact aerobics
- Heavy yard work
- Running on a treadmill
A method called the target heart rate is used by the doctors to calculate the intensity of endurance exercises. The assessment is used to determine the endurance exercises that can provide the best health improvements for the senior.
Moderate-intensity endurance exercise ranges from 60 to 70 percent of the maximal heart rate on the target heart rate. This is measured in beats per minute. An exercise stress test is usually used to determine the maximal heart rate. The same can also be calculated by subtraction of the senior’s age from 220.
For instance, an 80-years-old senior would have a maximal heart rate of 140. His target heart rate would be from 90-120 beats per minute during moderate-intensity endurance exercises. Should a senior’s endurance exercise program be inconvenienced by, say, a few weeks of illness or something, he needs to return to lower-intensity exercises first.
Stability or Balance Exercises
The elderly are prone to falling, and it is a significant cause of disability or fractures in the elderly. Stability exercises are thus crucial in that they lower the risk of falling in seniors. Stability exercises include:
- Plantar Flexion — Here, an elderly is made to stand with hands on a table for stability or balance. He then slowly stands on tiptoe, on the same position for 1 second and repeating the motion 8 to 15 times. When an elderly has learned to feel steady performing this exercise, he can over time work up to holding the table only with a fingertip. Then he can do it with no hands and then with the eyes shut.
- Side leg raises
- Hip or knee flexion
- Heal to toe walk — This can be done while taking a daily walk. You only do it for a short distance. It improves your balance.
- Standing on one foot — it is done for a few seconds while one is waiting in the queue, waiting for a matatu, etc. One then alternates the feet after a few seconds.
The Purpose of Therapeutic Exercises
- Therapeutic exercise in seniors has several health benefits, which include:
- Lowering the risk of psychiatric disorders like depression
- Improving one’s sense general sense of well-being
- Provides opportunities for social interaction
- Reducing mortality, even among smokers and obese persons. This has been confirmed by one study and another that showed that elderly persons who take regular exercise lower their mortality rates 20 to 50 percent than their idle peers.
- Reducing the risk of obesity by creating a balanced energy state. Excess weight increases the risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and is also hard on aging joints.
- Improving balance, thus lowering the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. This is especially when balance training is part of the exercise program.
- Lowering blood pressure
- Helping manage insomnia by improving sleep quality
- Improving or maintaining one’s flexibility and range of motion of joints, which is essential in the senior’s functional ability or mobility.
- Preserving lung capacity, bone density, and muscle strength. These are vital in maintaining mobility, which then enhances independence.
At Prime Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Services, each patient is assessed by one of our physiotherapists before a suitable program of therapeutic exercises is designed. The assessment helps to gauge his health condition and ability, all which have to be taken into consideration when determining what exercise can work best.
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