Better Aging for a Better Life

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In the recent times of people living longer and longer lives, finding the fountain of youth is becoming more appealing.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and prejudices about the potential of older adults in this society.  However, with the right information and lifestyle practices, an active, healthy, and even athletic older adult is perfectly achievable and normal.

Before people are suffering from chronic pain and health issues, it is imperative for the community to know that symptoms of poor aging are preventable.  If you are strong, flexible, practicing balance exercises, and working on endurance, your function can only improve and there is a reduction in risking injuries.  Many people blame their genetics or previous level activity for being less healthy into the later stages of life, but there are more factors that play a bigger role in the aging process.

In a Harvard study, it was found that the major factors that predicted successfully moving through middle age into your 80s were as follows:

          Avoiding cigarettes

          Good adjustment or coping skills

          Keeping a healthy weight

          Exercising regularly

          Maintaining strong social relationships

          Pursuing education

With physical therapy, we focus on the exercise portion of aging and the four categories of exercise that are important are endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

Endurance exercises increase your breathing and heart rate.  They are important to keep your heart, circulation, and lungs working as effectively as possible.  Endurance exercises include brisk walking and jogging, yard work, biking, and dancing, but it is important to pick an exercise that you enjoy in order to be motivated to continue consistently.

Strength exercise make your muscles stronger.  With stronger muscles, everyday life activities can become easier and you can live independently for longer.  Strengthening the major muscle groups in your body can help going up and down stairs and carrying groceries a bit easier.  Strengthening your lower body muscles can also help with balance, however there are other major components to balance.

Balance helps prevent falls which is a common and serious problem with older adults.  Falling leads to other serious medical and orthopedic issues.  While lower body strengthening helps balance, ankle stability, core stabilization, and your vestibular system are essential as well.  Some balance exercises include standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walking, or Tai Chi classes.

Flexibility of your muscles are lost as you age, however you don’t need to accept your new stiff muscles.  Stretching regularly can help your body stay limber.  Increased muscle length and better flexibility offers improved mobility and decreased risk for injury.  Stretches can be static or dynamic, or you can take a yoga class.

You don’t need a serious injury to benefit from physical therapy.  If you have a musculoskeletal issue that you are experiencing and that limits your life, there are exercises that could help live a better life and help you age more gracefully as you get older.

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Ariana Legatie
Ariana Legatie graduated from Virginia Tech in 2009 with a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and later received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Marymount University in Arlington, VA in 2013. Since then, Ariana has worked in two different outpatient orthopedics clinics in Washington, DC treating a variety of musculoskeletal dysfunctions. She has specialized in and developed a program for Women's Health/Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and has experience with hypermobile patients, including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Her treatment approach consists of various manual techniques as well as emphasis on core stabilization in order to improve her patients' mobility, function, and quality of life. Ariana recently moved to the Charlotte area and started working with Compleat Rehab and Sports Therapy in Mint Hill, NC.