If someone can't do vigorous exercise, is gentle exercise still beneficial?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 30, 2016
Anneburnell asked...

In reference to the recent article about inflammation, I ask the following: I would be interested in learning two things. 1. If someone cannot do 'vigorous' exercise, does gentle exercise such as stretching, yoga, or Pilates have any benefit? 2. Are you suggesting a gluten-free diet for everyone?

Thanks! Anne Burnell http://www.StrongerSeniors.com

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

In reading your question, I tried to look at the website you referenced, but I could not find the article you were talking about. So, I will try to answer your questions based on my medical opinion.

1) Does gentle exercise have any benefit? The answer is yes! Stretching will help your flexibility, while yoga can also help with strengthening. Pilates will give you a strong core. I will also add that Tai Chi, which is also gentle exercise, can help improve balance and reduce falls in older persons.

Even for those who can do vigorous exercise, all these "gentle" exercise types should be done too, as they have benefits in strength and flexibility.

2) Gluten-free diets for everyone? In less than 1 percent of Americans, consuming gluten can damage the small intestine, causing impaired ability to absorb nutrients from food. This condition is known as celiac disease. For these people, doctors will prescribe a gluten-free diet. Some Americans are "gluten sensitive", where eating gluten will cause headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other stomach symptoms. As much as 15 percent of Americans may fit into this category.

Some people who test negative for celiac disease seem to feel better when they cut gluten out of their diet anyway. While there's no research studies that show that the diet would help for them, most dieticians would tell you that there's nothing risky about a gluten-free diet.

If you would like to try the diet to see if you feel better, then you can do it for a couple of weeks. If you notice no difference, then you can go back to your old diet. If you feel better, then maybe the diet did work for you. Good luck!

Community Answers

The answer to question 1 is "Yes, definitely!" The benefits of exercise and its direct relationship to well-being and overall health are well documented and include:

  • Helps you to feel better and live longer.

  • Improves your sense of well being, and you feel better about yourself.

  • Reduces stress and improves overall mood.

  • Helps prevent or manage certain chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, as well as prevent heart disease.

  • Burns calories and can help you lose weight.

  • Gives you more energy by improving heart and lung function.

  • Helps you to sleep better.

Yoga, stretching and gentle Pilates (under supervision of a certified Pilates instructor) are great choices, and benefit everyone, as they help with flexibility. Our focus is fall prevention, and the following exercises help with strength and flexibility, but are also gentle (check with your doctor before starting any exercise program):

  1. Ankle Exercises:

    a. Sit in a straight chair; lengthen your spine without resting against the back of the chair.

    b. Lift one leg off the floor (straighten your knee slightly)

    c. Circle that ankle in (clockwise) 10 times.

    d. Circle that ankle out (counter-clockwise?) 10 times.

    e. Point and flex your toes 10 times.

    f. Do TWO (2) sets with each foot.

  2. Reach overhead side to side:

    a. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart, facing forward.

    b. Lunge to the RIGHT, reaching up with your right arm.

    c. Lunge to the LEFT, reaching up with your left arm.

    d. You will be reaching outside your base and strengthening your balance side to side.

    e. Exhale as you reach up.

    f. Repeat 10-20 times to each side. Rest and repeat.

Irish lady answered...

Gentle exercise and stretching excercise are both very beneficial to those of us who have arthritis. After exercising I find my arthritis pain lessens greatly or goes away for the rest of the day. It is sometimes hard to get the energy to excercise, but the benefits are really well worth it. I joined Curves for Women and their excercise regimine is perfect for both of these activities. (Plus, it gets me out of the house and into a social setting.)