The answer to the first question is “Just about everyone.” There are a few exceptions, but you can count on the fact that you are not likely to be one of them. Your G.P or Physio can tell you if you ought to restrict your exercise and why. If there is no restriction, then go ahead and do it.
Those who exercise regularly benefit. They become stronger if they are doing strengthening exercise, and can go longer if they are doing endurance exercise. If your muscles are alive and working, then they can get stronger, no matter how old you are. Just exercise them until they get tired. If you get puffed after fast walking for 10 minutes then do it 6 more days, every other day, and you’ll go at least 15 minutes or more before getting puffed.
This happens for everyone who does not have a physiological or anatomical limitation, no matter how old, no matter how long they have been on the couch imitating a potato.
When should you exercise? How about now? Stand up and sit down 10 times while you are reading this article. Don’t use your hands. It’s as easy as that. If you have not been exercising for some time, do strengthening exercises that use your body weight as resistance, and for endurance exercise use fast walking before you use jogging or running. For people with difficulties with their legs or backs, bicycling is a great one, as is swimming.
Do your exercise no more than every other day, that is 3 or 4 times per week. Recovery is needed after each exercise session, particularly for those of us not playing for the All Blacks, Silver Ferns, or rowing with the Olympic team. For us mortals, if we want to be able to sustain our efforts without hurting ourselves, and actually notice that we are improving, then we need to do our exercise no more than 3 or 4 times per week. BUT, and this is a big but (with one “t”) it won’t happen unless we schedule it at the top of the list of things that need scheduling. If we fit it in when we don’t have anything else to do, then it won’t happen. This is experience talking.
So, whatever level you start at, just start, schedule it as a top priority item, and don’t stop. It is a lot easier if you pick something fun to do for exercise. As the song says, a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.
These comments are general in nature. Be sure to check with your physio or doctor if you are not sure whether they apply to your situation.
Dave Rohe is a recently retired physio having practiced in New Zealand since 2004. He originally qualified in the USA, subsequently practicing in Malawi, Egypt and Cambodia prior to emigrating to New Zealand in 2003. He has enjoyed management positions in pediatric and adult outpatient facilities as well as taught physiotherapy for 15 years at the University of Georgia. He is currently living in Parakai with his wife, Sharon Robinson, a local midwife, near his adult children who are working, and one of whom is studying to qualify as a physio through the programme at the University of Otago. His articles previously appeared in local newspapers in Taranaki and on the blog site sponsored by NZSPT.