Enough is Enough – Evaluating the Key Aspects of Fitness Central to Optimal Aging

“Why do people get total knee replacements?” “Because they have fractured kneecaps.”

Or, “What is a good exercise for the quadriceps?” “A great exercise for your quads is standing up and bringing your knee up toward your hip.“ We know there isn’t a therapist reading this who would give these answers. But Carole recently attended a presentation sponsored by a nationally known and very well respected hospital chain in which an exercise physiologist, who works in a cardiac rehab unit, addressed a group of older adults on the topic A Better Body at Any Age. The outline was as follows:

  1. What happens to our bodies as we age?
  2. Exercise is the most effective medicine that can be prescribed
  3. What are the major components of a balanced exercise program?
  4. What are the risks of sedentary lifestyle and sitting time?
  5. Barriers/ Setbacks how to overcome and find motivation to exercise.

In the 50 minutes that followed, the exercise physiologist vaguely covered these topics and never referenced a single research study to support her “facts.” At the end, she fielded questions for 10 minutes, generally providing incorrect information to the participants and never once deferring to actual experts when the questions were outside her area of expertise.

This is a travesty and it has been going on for too long. Enough is enough. We are not fulfilling our community outreach role and therefore others who do not have adequate training are filling the void. Because we’ve been careless/inattentive/neglectful (you pick) in our commitment to proving and promoting our worth, hospitals and rehab centers across the country have quietly been replacing PTs with exercise physiologists and rehab techs. PT’s are far more qualified than our more economical replacements, but not innovating, not practicing at the top of our license, and not reaching out to the community have made our situation precarious.

In 2004, Dale Avers made a motion to the Section on Geriatrics to take steps to make physical therapists the exercise experts for older adults. Carole was on that task force. Many goals evolved, most notably the development of a certification to help therapist become exercise experts. Many have received that certification and we applaud this success; however, more must be done.

Because of the strides made in educating therapists about exercise and aging, we believe the focus must now shift to a) the development of an easy to use, predictive and normed screening tool for 50+ clients/patients, b) understanding ways to motivate older persons to exercise not just aerobically, but also in ways that will improve their quality if life and reduce their risk of falls, c) learning techniques for presenting information and advice in the community, and most importantly, d) figuring out ways to gain support for annual PT check ups from medical venues and community centers.

To that end, Carole’s company, www.greatseminarsonline.com, has created the Moving Target Screen (MTS), a performance-based functional assessment tool for 50+ adults designed to be used by PTs to evaluate the key aspects of fitness central to optimal aging: posture, flexibility, balance, endurance, and strength. The tool is available for FREE on our website and at www.movingtargetscreen.com. We have also created a 5-hour e-learning course, “Functional Standards for Optimal Aging: The Moving Target Screen,” which demonstrates the proper execution of the 15 components of the MTS, the research supporting each of the tests that comprise the MTS, and key interventions. This 5-hour course also contains information on marketing to physicians and community programs and motivating people to actually do the exercises you prescribe. In addition, the live seminar company, www.greatseminarsandbooks.com, offers a 20-hour certification (Functional Standards for Optimal Aging Expert – FSOAE) to ensure that therapists are skilled and comfortable in performing, critiquing, motivating, prescribing and marketing the MTS.

Health care is changing. We need to broaden our perspective and reach out to the community. Not only will we be providing a much needed service, but during the question and answer portion of our presentations to the community, we can provide correct answers.

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