• Fitness Across the Lifespan

    From preventing and reducing back pain to developing a customized exercise regimen, physical therapists help people preserve motion and mobility as they age. However, they are also dealing with the physical challenges that accompany aging, and they are sharing their experiences to demonstrate that physical activity doesn’t have to end with age.

    Learn more below about the challenges physical therapists have encountered with age and how they have overcome them to stay fit and vibrant.

    Lisa Culver, PT, DPT, MBA
    "A few years ago my back began to get stiff. It was worst in the morning, and because I was in my forties, I thought it was arthritis. As it developed slowly, it took a long time for me to realize it wasn’t just me getting old. Even as a physical therapist it is hard to diagnose yourself."

    Erik Moen, PT
    "Feet and ankle musculature lose their capabilities fairly quickly as we age. Poor foot/ankle fitness affects balance and your ability to stay “upright,” and/or prevent falls. I work on single-foot balance activities and calf stretching to ensure my upright capabilities remain intact as I age."

    Bernadette Williams, PT, DSc, GCS
    "Throughout my 30s and early-40s I competed in 5k and 10k road races and always strove to finish early enough to earn a medal or ribbon. Now fast forward to the present, I'm nearing 50, and while I still love competitive sports, my joints can't take the pounding they took in my youth. So, have I stopped exercising altogether? No, but I have made some modifications so I don’t further damage my joints."

    Patrice Winter, PT, MPT, MS, FAAOMPT
    "Do I have pain? Often. What do I do about it? I rest a day or two, take an anti-inflammatory, and allow my body to recover. Then, I work back into the activity with gentle stretching and gradual strengthening. It is important for both muscle and heart health to warm up and cool down before and after exercising."

    Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT
    "I had run my first marathon 10 years prior, and somehow along the way managed to trim 40 minutes off my marathon time! How was I faster at 42 than I was at 32? I realize that instead of maintaining the same training routine, I adapted in order to compensate for the changes that were occurring as I aged."

    William O'Grady, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
    "There is no reason to lift heavy weights at this stage in your life. However, it is important to keep your strength so that you can avoid problems with balance and maintain an active lifestyle."

    Related Videos

    Fitness as You Age

    Laura Malnati, PT, DPT, OCS, explains how to maintain fitness throughout your life with the help of a physical therapist.

    Improving Balance

    Shannon Brady, PT, DPT, explains how older adults can work with a physical therapist to improve their balance and prevent falls.