The Challenges of Mobility Loss
The buzz words for senior citizens today are ‘active aging.’ Active aging means that we remain active and strong in our later years to prevent the loss of mobility. Loss of mobility in seniors can drastically change their lifestyles and some might never recover. But, a daily health plan that includes healthy diet and exercises designed to keep joints moving and the mind sharp can help us stay mobile far into our senior years. How’s that for an incentive?
As we age, we lose flexibility, muscle and bone and our strength may falter. These losses may mean that we also lose mobility and independence and become fragile and at risk for falls and fractures plus other diseases associated with aging. But, don’t be discouraged about those disheartening facts of getting older.
Regular exercise (emphasize regular) such as strength training (weights), flexibility (stretching), aerobics (for cardio health) and balance can greatly reduce your risk for mobility loss. Even if you already have a certain amount of mobility loss or health problems, there are things you can do to improve your well-being and your fitness level.
Older adults can exercise the rear, lower back and thighs by performing chair squats (holding on to the back of a sturdy chair and squatting, then pull yourself back up using the chair as support). Standing leg curls can be performed by curling your leg to the back while standing. Raise one leg at a time to the side to strengthen your legs and thighs or stand on your tip-toes to improve strength and build muscles in your calves, ankles and feet. Do these exercises in several repetitions 3 or 4 days per week.
If you’re new to exercise, begin slowly and build your endurance by exercising on a regular basis. If you’re unsure about how to start or which exercises you can do without causing harm to your body, you may want to consult a fitness trainer and let her provide the appropriate exercise guidelines for your level of fitness.
Cardiovascular exercises, like swimming, rapid walking or jogging, might be beyond your ability at the present time, but rather than spending 30 minutes or an hour at a time at these strenuous exercises, try breaking them up into several 10 minute periods at a time. Even a five minute walk around the house or down the street is better than nothing and can really make a difference.
Just realize that the absolute minimum of aerobic activity to keep you fit and reduce the risk of mobility loss is 30 minutes per day, five days a week. You also need to work strength training into your schedule. The advantage that strength training adds to your overall fitness plan is amazing. You’ll increase muscle mass, become more stable when you stand or walk and simply be more able to perform daily chores.
The goal you should have in mind when you exercise to increase your mobility and strength is to become fit rather than frail. Exercise is a way you can push back the aging process and remain young both in mind and body.