Although you can’t stop time, the right type and amount of physical activity can help stave off many age-related health problems.
More than half (59 percent) of Americans expect to still be living at home independently at the age of 80, according to a recent survey by the American Physical Therapy Association. However, the same study showed that at least half of the same population recognizes they will see a decline in strength and flexibility as they age.
Movement experts such as physical therapists can help aging individuals overcome pain, gain and maintain movement, and preserve independence – often helping to avoid the need for surgery or long-term use of prescription drugs.
These nine tips, provided by the experts at the American Physical Therapy Association, are keys to helping you age well:
1. Chronic pain doesn’t have to be the boss of you. Each year 116 million Americans experience chronic pain from arthritis or other conditions. Proper exercise, mobility, and pain management techniques can ease pain, improving your overall quality of life.
2. You can get better and stronger at any age. Research shows that an appropriate exercise program can improve your muscle strength and flexibility as you age. Progressive resistance training, where muscles are exercised against resistance that gets more difficult as strength improves, has been shown to help prevent frailty.
3. You may not need surgery or drugs for your low back pain. Low back pain is often over-treated with surgery and drugs despite a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating that physical therapy can be an effective alternative with less risk.
4. You can lower your risk of diabetes with exercise. One in four Americans over the age of 60 has diabetes. Obesity and physical inactivity can put you at risk for this disease, but a regular, appropriate physical activity routine is one of the best ways to prevent and manage type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
5. Exercise can help you avoid falls and keep your independence. More than half of adults over 65 report problems with movement, including walking 1/4 mile, stooping, and standing. Exercise can improve movement and balance and reduce your risk of falls.
6. Your bones want you to exercise. Osteoporosis, or weak bones, affects more than half of Americans over the age of 54. Exercises that keep you on your feet, like walking, jogging or dancing, and exercises using resistance such as weight lifting, can improve bone strength or reduce bone loss.
7. Your heart wants you to exercise. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. One of the top ways of preventing it and other cardiovascular diseases is exercise. Research shows that if you already have heart disease, appropriate exercise can improve your health.
8. Your brain wants you to exercise. People who are physically active, even later in life, are less likely to develop memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease, a condition which affects more than 40 percent of people over the age of 85.
9. You don’t have to live with bladder leakage. More than 13 million women and men in the United States have bladder leakage. A physical therapist can help you avoid spending years relying on pads or rushing to the bathroom.
To learn more about the role of physical activity as you age, or to find a physical therapist near you, visit MoveForwardPT.com.