We all want to age gracefully and stay healthy and strong as we get older. However, not many people understand that we need to do something about that now.
Aging is inevitable, even though you probably wish it is not. But some aspects of aging are certainly avoidable and we do not have to accept them. For example, you don’t need to gain weight as you age, and you don’t need to stop doing some activities that you love simply because you are getting older. I understand that you may already have health conditions that are limiting you, however you can still always make improvements.
When we try to slow down aging and improve our health we likely think of eating plenty of nutrient dense healthy food, taking vitamins as needed, walking, and maybe meditation. These are are necessary but the missing link here is our stability, mobility and strength (SMS). As we age we tend to lose all three of these.
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury and possibly death in older people? According to the CDC every second of every day an older adult (aged 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S. Falls are a major cause of disability, yet they are easily preventable.
Our joint flexibility and mobility is crucial for improving muscle strength and increasing life quality. Flexibility and stability are the most important components of physical activity, however most people underestimate their role. This does not mean that you have to be flexible like a ballerina, but you should able to go through your daily life without discomfort in your body. Simple things such as tying our shoes become a major challenge for many people.
Many muscle aches and pains are avoidable by doing simple, regular flexibility and mobility movements. Even just 5–10 minutes a day can reduce muscle tension, pain and joint stiffness and prevent injury too. In addition this helps you to increase muscle strength with resistance training and lubricate the joints as well.
If you have a cat or a dog then you already know that when they wake up the first thing they do is to stretch everything, and they do this several times throughout the day. They don’t think, they just follow their instinct.
Our joints alternate between mobility and stability. For example, when you work on your ankle mobility — by doing something such as flexing then pointing the toes, and rotating your ankle through a full range of motion in both directions — you also promote and increase stability in your knees.
You can think about the body as a chain, with all of the joints working together. So if you have hip pain it is likely coming from your knee joints; if you have lower back pain it is likely coming from your hips; and if you don’t have thoracic mobility then you may get neck and shoulder or lower back pain.
Here’s how the joints act together like a chain:
Ankle — Mobility
Knee — Stability
Hip — Mobility
Lumbar Spine (lower back) — Stability
Thoracic Spine — Mobility
Scapula (shoulder blade) — Stability
Shoulder — Mobility
Here are some tips for what you can do daily to improve your mobility and stability, so that eventually you can increase your strength:
1 — Start first with your head, and turn it each side to look over your shoulder, then tilt it side to side so that your ears go towards your shoulders. Repeat 8 to 12 times for each side.
2 — Swing your arms with a full range of motion without bending your elbow. Move in each direction — front circle, back circle, and fully extended arms circle. Repeat each direction and each arm for 6 to 8 reps.
3 — Fully rotate your shoulder joints in both directions by shrugging and rotating your shoulders. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps in each direction.
4 — Try the kneeling cat and cow yoga move, or you can do this standing by curling the spine and then opening the chest forward. Repeat 6 to 8 times.
5 — Swing you legs front and back. You can hold on to a chair for balance if you like, just try to not move the upper body, only move your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.
6 — Try high knee’s, pulling your knee as high as you can without leaning back. Repeat each side 8 to 10 times.
7 — Put one leg in front of you and swing it from side to side. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.
8 — Try a bodyweight squat, or if this is too hard for you just sit in a chair, stand up, and sit down again. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
9 — Lastly, fully stretch the body keeping both arms straight and reach as high as you can as if you were reaching up for something. Let go of all your body weight and lean forward, keeping the knees slightly bent. Don’t push yourself, just go as low as you can. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Try these exercises just for 2 weeks and you will feel much more energized, have less pain, and feel more mobile.
So yes, we certainly can age gracefully, we just need to put the work in now.
1 — “Healthy Aging”; Andrew Weil, MD
2 — “Keep on Your Feet — Preventing Older Adult Falls”; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html
3 — “Flexibility of Older Adults Aged 55–86 Years and the Influence of Physical Activity”; Liza Stathokostas, Matthew W. McDonald, Robert M. D. Little, Donald H. Paterson; US National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703899/
4 — “Movement“; Gray Cook
5 — “Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists”; Thomas Myers