Six Secrets to Aging Well

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has for many years designated October as National Physical Therapy Month. Each year in October, we take time to appreciate how physical therapists help maintain, restore, and optimize movement in people’s lives. This year, we focus on their impact on healthy aging. The aging process can be a difficult one as it’s often accompanied by decreased mobility, strength, balance, energy, independence, and a general decline in function. How can physical therapists help, you ask? Let’s take a look at 6 ways physical therapists routinely assist individuals in aging well.

  1. Motion is LotionThis is one of my favorite sayings. It can be easy to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle when motion becomes more difficult, especially with the advancement in technology enabling productivity and lifestyle without ever leaving the couch. As physical therapists, we are movement specialists and take great pride in analyzing movement and initiating steps to optimize it. We can help create a safe and effective plan to increase motion and activity in your life, so your joints and muscles don’t dry up.
  2. Drink Your Way To HealthWater, of course. The human body is roughly 60% water. It helps provide shock absorption within the central nervous system, lubricating the joints, decreasing the work of the heart and lungs, and keeping skin healthy. Without water, we cannot survive; and without enough of it, we cannot thrive. I’ve heard many people say, “I drink when I’m thirsty.” However, by the time you are thirsty, you are actually already dehydrated. How much you need to drink depends on climate, activity level, and clothes worn. The minimum recommendation, when minimally active, is 0.5 ounces per pound of bodyweight. With activity and increased perspiration, water intake must also increase accordingly to provide our organs and tissues adequate hydration to complete vital tasks. An added benefit is that proper hydration often causes hunger to decrease enabling improved ability to manage weight.
  3. Resistance To Weakness
    It has been shown that resistance training is vitally important to bone and muscular health. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 2-4x/week of 20-60 minutes of moderate intensity (55%-75% of maximum effort) exercise to improve overall health and build muscle. Exercise intensity may be the most important factor. Bone and muscle grow according to the stresses placed on them. Strength and endurance improvements are directly related to improvements in function. Proper technique and exercise prescription are critical to improve strength and bone health safely and effectively. Resistance training increases metabolism, enabling us to burn more calories and give us more energy.
  4. Don’t Fall Into DeclineBalance declines with age, increasing the risk of falls. Here are some staggering statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. One in five falls in adults over the age of 65 results in serious injury. Every 13 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room due to a fall, and every 20 minutes someone dies secondary to a fall. Modifiable risk factors include medications, vision impairments, foot pain and footwear, lower body weakness, balance and walking impairments, and hazards around the home. The latter four factors are ones which physical therapists directly evaluate, discuss with patients, develop a plan of care, and work with the patients to decrease their risk of falls.
  5. Attack The HeartHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Over 610,000 deaths occur each year from heart disease. Sedentary lifestyle is one of the five leading risk factors for heart disease. On the other hand, exercise is the leading preventative measure against heart disease. Among it’s many benefits are improved blood pressure, decreased bad cholesterol (LDL and total), increased good cholesterol (HDL), strengthened heart muscle, decreased stress, increased insulin activity, and improved sleep. If you already have heart disease, proper exercise prescription and supervision can be vitally important in safely increasing activity and exercise. Attack the disease before it attacks you. Take preventative measures and increase your exercise and activity today.
  6. If You Don’t Use It, You Lost ItIn closing, I finish with another one of my favorite sayings. This one needs no explanation.

Visit your physical therapist today to develop a plan to age well!

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