HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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Lee says many types of exercises keep you functionally active, but more are needed as we age. Lee speaks favorably of the water aerobics program now offered in a warm saltwater pool to residents of a retirement community in Central Kentucky. The classes have resulted in great improvement in flexibility and strength for many participants, especially those suffering from arthritis. Water aerobics also promotes faster healing from injuries.


Physical therapy is often recommended after a broken bone or surgery. Physical therapy promotes healing and the redevelopment of normal activity after an injury or a surgery by increasing blood flow, flexibility, strength and stimulating the re-education of nerves and muscles so they work together well and build coordination. Mobility decreases as the body heals from a broken bone or surgery. “People healing from such events are in slings or on crutches or perhaps are not allowed to put weight on a leg,” said Lee. “Physical therapy helps the body recover mobility and strength while the body and the anatomical structures are healing.”


The bottom line, Lee says, is those who are stronger and move more live longer. The Nicholasville KORT may be reached at (859) 881-0333 or visits its Web site at www.kort.com.

Dr. Matt Lee, clinical director of the Kentucky Orthopedic Rehabilitation Team (KORT) in Nicholasville, Ky., is frank: “People who stay active live longer.”


Lee should know. “As a young physical therapist, I used to think people became inactive because they were medically ill,” he said. “But after years of practice and research, I understand now that people become medically ill because they are inactive. We are made to move, even as we age. Your physical activity is a matter of living longer and living better.”


Staying physically active as you age is one key to keeping your independence. “Having the physical skills to live alone – strength, endurance and balance – is critical to the individual’s safety and ultimately to independence,” Lee said. “When patients come into the physical therapy clinic weak and deconditioned, I share with them that their results are directly related to their future of living independently vs. living with care. This is truly a big deal.”


Lee said in general terms, at the most basic level, any physical activity is beneficial: walking, dancing, taking the stairs. However, older adults need to add activities aimed specifically at strength training, aerobic work and balance activities. The reason for this, Lee says, is that as bodies age, normal strength diminishes and people lose the

OLDER ADULTS CAN BENEFIT FROM PHYSICAL THERAPY

muscle strength needed to perform many activities that were routine for them in the past. Results of this change compound over time. Balance suffers, activity lessens and medical health declines. Very few people, Lee says, are dangerously inactive in their 50s and 60s. “Yet at some age our bodies begin to weaken,” he said. This physiologic stage happens around age 68 to 70 years. The trouble is, Lee says, you don’t know you are declining until you have declined.


During this time of decline, it becomes important to add strength training, aerobic work and balance training to an exercise routine. Cardiovascular exercise – walking, swimming and biking – are all good for building health and strength. Physical activity helps prevent loss of balance, a common problem in the elderly.


“Physical activity yields strength,” Lee said. “More strength can help one to accommodate to situations where balance may be compromised and ultimately prevent falls.” This is one reason many people use canes or walkers, Lee says. These assistive devices prevent falls by substituting for the decreased strength in the user’s body.  

MARTHA EVANS SPARKS

Martha Evans Sparks is a Staff Writer for Living Well 60+ Magazine

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