The ‘method’ of physiotherapy for older people: from the post-war period to the present in Salamanca

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Getting older is just as good as it is bad. We all want to reach the age of majority – because the other option is rejected – but that does not mean that it is difficult to accept the passage of time. Aging is associated with disability, dependency or even hospitalization, situations that They can be aggravated by a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. This topic is being worked on by the University of Salamanca, with the help of the town’s City Council, with the Project ‘Research in active aging with preventive physiotherapy’.

“It works wonderfully well for us.” Amparo, one of the Project participants and about to start her first training of the week, summarizes in two words why she attends the Juan de la Fuente Center to play sports. «I have a son… who always, always, always wants me to play sports because it is a benefit for everyone. Much more should be done. Exercise is essential and we wouldn’t take so many pills if we did more, I’ll tell you.”

The task begins. Natalia, a physiotherapist graduated from USAL, indicates the first warm-up movements before starting aerobic training and, later, strength and/or power. “She is very good, she is super professional and she is very patient with us,” Amparo concludes, laughing, before putting on her running shoes in the Multipurpose Room. There are 20 of them, all women and only one man. At first there is a certain shyness in the atmosphere, the warm-up has not finished and the first laughter can already be heard.

A project from the post-war period to the present

The project was born 30 years ago with a majority sample of women, all of them from the post-war era with very different characteristics from today: they had had food deficiencies, they did not even know how to ride a bicycle and they did not even know what clothes to wear. to exercise: “they came with comfortable shoes, with house slippers,” confesses Fausto J. Barbero Iglesias, senior university professor at the Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy of the University of Salamanca.

Fausto J. Barbero Iglesias and Luis Polo Ferrero

Jose Manuel Garcia

“The need to carry out physical activity in older people was observed, so that the cessation of work activity, retirement, was not linked to staying at home or ending an active life,” he explains. 30 years of evolution that today are transformed into 16 groups of approximately 20 people each and a waiting list. The program is completely free and an initial assessment is done to check their status to know whether or not they can carry out physical activity. Their pathologies are taken into account at all times, so that “well-planned and well-managed exercise is always safe,” as Luis Polo states.

«The participants are very loyal to the program. They love it – you just have to see them. They socialize, play sports and see that their abilities improve. They become regulars at the program, they demand it. In the pandemic, despite the fear of becoming infected, they demanded the need to start as soon as possible,” he says.

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The population has evolved towards a “broader psychomotor development” and this “loyalty” is justified by the results: “Not only do they socialize and leave the house at least three times a week, but in their daily lives they are more agile, more capable and happier. His physical improvement is spectacular. Exercise in older people, I repeat, is safe and necessary.

Prevention of sarcopenia in women

Luis Polo Ferrero, associate professor at the Faculty of Nursing and Physiotherapy of the University of Salamanca, has dug even deeper into a hole that aims to find answers. Specifically, he wanted to investigate the benefits of strength training based on muscle power to prevent sacopenia – a condition characterized by a decrease in strength and muscle mass – in older women.

«I started with them in the post-pandemic summer training in the Würzburg park. They demanded training and I focused on strength training. In four months they got brutal better ones. They thanked me, one told me: Thank you Luis, because thanks to you I can walk to places and I don’t depend on the bus to go see my daughter! », she says.

This was the seed, the sowing was carried out for eight months through strength training based on muscular power, which reaped its fruits with improvements in daily life: we talked about getting up and sitting down again, picking up objects in high areas , carrying shopping bags… simple and routine situations. “In older adults, walking is not enough, they have to do strength and/or power training,” he points out.

why women? “We have seen that the loss of functionality appears earlier in women due to menopasia, drop in estrogen, sexual hormones… We saw that women live longer in a state of prefragility than men,” she responds.

Collaboration with USAL

The project, beneficial for all parties, brings together two essential and emblematic parts of Salamanca, its Town Hall and its University. How important is it that these types of projects are carried out jointly?

«That citizens can access this type of controlled exercises thanks to the involvement of the City Council and that the results can belong to a line of research of the University is positive, it is mutual benefit. We have carried out different paths, studies, research and theses thanks to this project. The purpose of the university is to revert part of its being to society and the city council as well,” concludes Fausto.

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