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  • Writer's pictureGiulia Pline

3 Things to Train to Maintain as you Age


What are some of the most important things that decline as we move through life that we can and probably should make a point to train to maintain for more optimal function as we age?


At the end of each year I often find myself reflecting back on how my body has changed and adapted throughout the course of the year. How is my mobility now compared to how it was at the beginning of January? How is my strength? What aches and pains do I have or have I resolved? I also find myself reflecting on the events that took place in my life over the year from personal to professional. This helps me capture a bigger picture of how my life impacted the way that I felt and currently feel in my body and how I moved and currently move my body.


For the past 17.5 months I have been completing prerequisites for physical therapy school and am getting ready to start a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program in June 2024. I have found myself more sedentary than ever this past year... sitting in classes learning, and sitting more at home studying, doing homework, and completing assignments.


As a result, this year was all about maintaining my mobility and strength. I tried to make it a point to get some daily morning or evening mobility in, hit a daily step goal (most days of the week), strength train 2-3x a week, and make it to at least one 5Rhythms dance class a week. Shifting my mindset with movement played a huge part in how I was able to preserve my function and feel good in the process. I also learned a lot about the power of consistency over intensity.


Throughout this process, I've been reflecting more and more on the things that we start to lose as we move through life, not only because of the progressive nature of our physiology, but because of various life events, circumstances, changes in our environment and social situations, injury, pain, the amount of time we have in a day or week to get things done, etc.


I found myself asking...


What are the some of the most important things that decline as we move through life that we can and probably should make a point to train to maintain for more optimal function as we age?


Here are 3 major things:


Grip Strength

Balance

Sit to Stand & Transfer Ability


Training to maintain these things will help us maintain ease in the ability to get around, be self-sufficient, perform daily activities and tasks without too much of an issue, as well as mitigate the risk of fall/injury.


This is such an important topic, that a post I made about these 3 things on Instagram and it became one of my most popular posts to date. I've uploaded it here on YouTube:



GRIP STRENGTH

Grip strength is a marker for overall body strength. Think about how much we use our hands on a daily basis; from brushing our teeth, to cooking and eating, cleaning ourselves and the house, taking care of chores, and typing/texting... the list goes on.


Here are a few ways to train your grip strength:

  • Use a grip trainer: like this one and work your hand/palm/finger strength.

  • Practice carries: Lift a heavy object up and literally walk around with it for 30 sec-1 min, each hand. 

  • Practice hanging: If you have access to a pull up bar or the monkey bars at the playground, start working on grabbing that bar and hanging away from it. Start with your feet supporting you on the floor and eventually progress to taking one foot off, then both feet off, and start racking up the amount of time you can hang there!

  • Walk your heavy groceries home: Make it a little inconvenient for yourself... instead of doing a grocery delivery, go to the store and buy your items, and walk them home or carry them to your car and back inside your house instead of using a shopping cart.


BALANCE

Maintaining good balance is important for efficient walking and being able to navigate obstacles without falling (like someone's dog who comes leaping toward you, the bump in the sidewalk, or the awkward curb you don't see).


Try these exercises:

  • Practice standing on one leg: Make it easier by holding on to something for support at first, or more challenging by closing your eyes.

  • Stand on an uneven or unstable surface: Foam pads, wobble boards, bosu balls, a rolled up blanket... all are great tools to use to challenge how you find your balance when the ground isn't even.

  • Walk the tight rope: Place a line on the floor in front of you using a strap, a belt, a robe belt, or a stretch of floorboard and walk that line. Make it more challenging by turning your head side to side as you walk, or try walking backwards on it!


SIT TO STAND & TRANSFER ABILITY

Being able to get up and down off furniture or the floor without using your hands or getting on and off the toilet or in and out of the shower is something we might take for granted, but is so important to be able to do as we age. 


Make improvements in how you get up and get down by trying these:

  • Chair squats: Get up and down out of a chair without using your hands. Make it a heck of a lot harder by trying to do it on one leg instead of two!

  • Get up and down off the floor: Make it a point to get down on the floor and back up again. We spend a majority of our lives sitting in a chair or on the couch and maybe not so much on the floor. Make it harder by not using your hands.

  • Use awareness: Become more aware of how much you use your upper body and arms to help you get up, get down, get in and out of the car, in and out of the shower, on and off the toilet, or in and out of bed each day. Try to use your upper body less, and your lower body more.


IN CONCLUSION


Keep it simple and practical and fit it into your daily life!


Perhaps start to incorporate more of these types of movements discussed above into your daily routine starting today! Make it manageable and stay consistent. You'll be surprised by how much it adds up when the year is over!

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