Healthy Aging Month: Tips for Maintaining Mobility
September is Healthy Aging Month, and there’s no better way to maintain your physical health than by staying active and mobile. Healthy Aging Month was launched to promote awareness among an aging Baby Boomer population. Health experts discovered a need to support older adults as they age to encourage physical, social and mental wellness.
Maintaining mobility doesn’t mean you need to run marathons. There are several simple activities that can maintain and improve your mobility, which is key to staying healthy and preserving your spinal health.
10 Ways to Stay Mobile As You Age
Staying mobile is essential to maintaining your physical and mental wellness. Adequate mobility preserves your muscle, bone and joint health, which naturally declines with age. Additionally, maintaining your mobility can help you continue doing the things you enjoy, such as your favorite hobbies.
You can reverse age-related changes to muscles, bones and joints. By starting to live an active lifestyle, not only will you feel better with everyday movements, but you’ll also be able to get back to the life and activities you enjoy.
To practice healthy aging, follow these 10 tips for maintaining lifelong mobility.
1. Practice Stretching and Foam Rolling
As we age, stretching becomes more and more important—and vital to our mobility and muscle recovery. Stretching helps your body stay flexible and offers a greater range of movement in your joints.
Continuously stretching also helps release your fascia tissue, which connects the muscles, bones, tendons and blood. When your fascia is healthy, it allows your muscles to easily glide against each other. When it’s unhealthy, fascia tissue is sticky and tight, causing you to feel stiff. By stretching for 10 minutes a day, you can gradually release tension and elongate your muscles.
As an alternative to stretching, try using a foam roller. When you hit a tight spot, roll it out, slowly, for 30 to 60 seconds until dissipates. Regular foam rolling loosens fascia tissue, which prevents injury and helps you stay mobile.
2. Go for a Daily Walk
Walking may seem like a simple way to stay active, but you’d be surprised how difficult it can be for some people to walk for long periods, while others may feel bored with it. Start by bringing your friends along for a walk. Or listen to some of your favorite tunes, audiobooks or podcasts.
Walking is a low-impact exercise, and being in the fresh air can also be beneficial for your mental well-being. If you’re unsteady and sometimes lose your balance, start by walking around your own home. Even short walks throughout the day can stretch your muscles and even improve your breathing.
3. Improve Balance and Coordination
Improving your balance and coordination is key to preventing dangerous falls that many older adults experience. There are a few activities you can do to help improve your coordination. Tai chi, yoga and light weight-training can better your balance.
Tai chi involves slow, deliberate movements to help with stability. It increases your leg strength and range of motion, which leads to improved flexibility and reflexes. During a tai chi practice, you learn to shift your weight in a controlled way, which trains your body to maintain stability and stay upright.
Yoga can also help strengthen your core muscles for improved stability and coordination. Speak with your doctor to make sure these activities are suitable for you.
4. Try Low Impact Cardio
Cardio exercise promotes a healthy cardiovascular system, which increases longevity and keeps you mobile longer. Swimming, water aerobics and biking are a few different ways you can stay active. Swimming, in particular, helps keep the pressure off your joints while keeping your heart rate up. And it’s an inexpensive way to stay active—most recreation centers off free-swim hours and swimming for seniors for a very low cost.
Indoor cycling can also increase your heart rate while minimizing wear-and-tear on your joints. Experts explain that cycling is an aerobic activity and can improve endurance, lower your blood pressure and stress levels, and strengthen your hips and legs, which are important muscles for stability.
5. Build Muscle Strength
Strength training is an excellent way to build and preserve your muscle mass. You don’t need to become a bodybuilder to help with this—light resistance training with bands or bodyweight is a safe way to build strength over time.
You could also try using light dumbbells to strengthen and tone your muscles. Simple movements such as arm raises and bicep curls can help maintain muscle mass and improve your coordination. Before doing any strength training, make sure you speak with your doctor to discuss the right exercise regime for you.
Similarly to cars, people run better when they’re warmed up. Before beginning exercise, try a dynamic warm-up to prevent injury. Warm-ups are an easy and gentle way to get your body ready to move within a couple of minutes.
Start stretching from your neck and move your way down to your ankles. Simple exercises such as lifting your neck up and down, trunk twists, knee bends and rolling your ankles can help prepare your body for activity by mobilizing your joints. Don’t worry if you feel like it’s too easy. It’s not supposed to be difficult, but rather a simple way to loosen up your joints and prevent injuries.
7. Cool Down
Cooling down is an essential practice for any well-rounded fitness regime—especially if your goal is to maintain mobility. Cooling down after working your muscles helps keep them from stiffening up after exercise and is a healthy way to transition you back into your day.
Post-workout, take a few minutes for your body, mind and muscles to cool down. While your muscles are still warm, ease into a stretch slowly and hold it for up to one minute. Combine your stretching with deep breathing to calm your central nervous system. Cooling down your overworked central nervous system is a gentle way to bring your entire body back into balance. It also helps prevent muscle fatigue and will lead to better coordination.
8. Supplement Your Nutrients
As we get older, our bodies need different nutrient levels to help keep our muscles and bones healthy. Calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K can help build and maintain bone density. Preserving bone mass is particularly important if you’re predisposed to osteoporosis—a common degenerative disorder in aging adults. Talk to a dietitian about supplementing these nutrients to ensure you’re getting enough each day.
Other supplements also address mobility issues. Omega-3 fatty acids are a natural anti-inflammatory, and taking these supplements can help reduce joint and muscle swelling and discomfort. Be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements, as some supplements may interfere with prescriptions.
9. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is a common contributor to muscle and joint stiffness, and when it becomes a chronic issue, it can lead to developing spinal health and joint conditions. To prevent inflammation and help your muscles and joints maintain their integrity, try eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
Certain foods are considered natural anti-inflammatories and can help nourish your muscles and joints. Tomatoes, nuts, olive oil, spinach, kale, berries and fatty fish are excellent foods to incorporate into your diet. Additionally, try to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as white bread, fried foods, red meat and sugary drinks. Eating too much of these foods can make staying active and mobile a challenge.
10. Practice Proper Posture
Keeping your spine in a neutral posture is essential for maintaining mobility and strength. Poor posture is prevalent among older adults and can make staying active and mobile a difficult task. When you slouch, your back and neck muscles get overworked, leading to neck and shoulder strain, back pain and even joint damage.
Try to remember to sit up straight and move around often. Keep your spine in an upright and neutral position, and don’t flex your back too far forward or backward. This can help prevent your spine from misaligning and avoid wear-and-tear on your spinal discs. Additionally, practicing a neutral posture is a good way to train core strength, which further improves spinal health and prevents injury.
Stay Mobile With Spine Health Products From Relax The Back
Maintaining mobility as you age is key to not only adding years to your life but adding life to your years.
Great mobility, even as we age, is achievable with support tools that promote healthy spine alignment. At Relax The Back we offer a range of products that protect your spine’s health and preserve your mobility for years to come. Here are some health and wellness products from Relax The Back that can help prevent back pain and preserve your mobility at home, work or on-the-go:
- Bed wedges: If you’re looking to provide some extra support to your back and spine, try a bed wedge. These pillows help reduce excessive pressure on your spine while in bed or on the couch and also offer additional support to help you sit upright or lie back. Foam bed wedges alleviate painful pressure points and ease muscle tension.
- Ergonomic workstations: Spending hours sitting in a chair can undoubtedly take a toll on the body, particularly your spine. From standing desks to ergonomic chairs to footrests, you can experience a pain-free workday. Browse some of our many ergonomic office furniture options and have your workstation custom-made to fit your body.
- Travel cushions: Sitting for long periods isn’t good for anyone, including those with back issues. While traveling, you may find yourself slouching or pushing your lumbar spine outward, leading to low back pain. If this is something you’ve experienced, try bringing a travel cushion for extra support. Lumbar cushions or travel neck pillows help keep your spine in a neutral position while on-the-go.
Relax The Back has the spinal health solutions you need to maintain mobility as you age. Visit a Relax The Back store near you and speak to one of our spinal health experts for a personalized recommendation.