Follow this practical advice to maintain your mobility as you age.
- Posted on Nov 17, 2017
As you age, mobility plays an important role in longevity and your overall quality of life. Guideposts.org spoke to Paula Fulgham Stiles, an outpatient physical therapist in Spokane, WA and Peter Baker, a personal trainer out of Tampa, Florida, about how you can stay spry well into your golden years. Please remember to consult your healthcare advisor before beginning a new fitness routine and work out in the care of a fitness professional to avoid injury. Here are Peter and Paula's tips for maintaining mobility as you age.
1) Watch Your Posture
Posture can be a red flag signalling loss of mobility, Peter says. A stooped over posture can indicate a lack of hip and spine function. “Flexibility is also important," Paula says. "We lose elasticity as we age so to combat that decrease in flexibility you have to work on it.” To fight this mobility loss Paula recommends a few specific exercises. Using an exercise ball between your back and a wall, do squats. Even yoga is possible for seniors under the guidance of a professional teacher, says Paula.
2) Focus on the Basics
Some of the best exercises you can do at this age mimic general activity you may already do daily, like walking. Peter says these every day moves are in his regular exercise rotation with his senior citizen clientele, “I’d set up stuff for the seniors to duck under and step over to maintain or possibly regain hip function.” Other top tips to get you through the day with ease? “Learn to fall” and “Practice getting up from the ground.” Your ability to get up from the ground is a strong indicator of your longevity.
3) Make Balance a Priority
Paula says it’s common to struggle with balance in your old age, “No matter the cause, improving lower extremity strength and ankle mobility will be helpful. I like having [my clients] practice single leg balance at the counter while they brush their teeth.” To increase the challenge, she recommends doing the same task with your eyes closed.
4) Hit the Pool
There’s a reason water aerobics are associated with seniors. Paula says the pool can have a freeing effect on your fitness, “Osteoarthritis in the knees and hips is common in the elderly and the water helps unweight those joints so they can do more in the water than on land.” Because even when it seems like your knees and hips are trying to keep you still, you have to keep it moving. “This population of the elderly still needs strengthening but has to find a tolerable amount of load.”
5) Diet Makes a Difference
Peter warns that once you hit a certain age, “Gaining muscle is tougher.” The Tampa trainer advises, “In general, they need more protein in their diet, and there’s literature to support that.” The Mayo Clinic suggests healthy, elderly individuals consume three to four ounces of protein daily – But keep it lean!
6) Be Cautious
You’ve probably already discovered that your body doesn’t bounce back from injury like it used to. So, start slow and be realistic about the timeline for your progress. Peter confirms, “Training smart will help avoid injury since when you get older, recovery isn’t as easy like it was when you were [a teenager].” And Paula suggest if you’re trying out a new exercise or feeling uncertain, get supervision from a professional, “If you have difficulty doing something you love, seek help from a physical therapist or qualified trainer to help you do that activity.”
7) Keep It Fun
Both Paula and Peter rank keeping it fun high on their fitness priority list. Peter says, “Friends are always nice” to exercise with and he encourages getting out of the house. “I’m a big fan of walking outdoors if possible. Especially if your City is made for stuff like that. Like New York.” There are so many different ways to stay fit these days, from a gym membership to different classes like barre, cycling and yoga or videos you can watch online from the comfort of your own home. “I would say find an activity you enjoy and keep doing it.”
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader