November 4, 2019 — Last year about three million older people sought emergency room treatment for injuries sustained in falls. About 1 out of 3 people over 65 had a serious fall. We’ve all heard tales of older people (that is getting to be us!) whose lives were changed, irrevocably, for the worst after a big fall. A broken hip or pelvis can mean the end of an active life.
So what are you doing to stay agile, flexible, and strong so you don’t suffer a fall, or not seriously hurt if you do? If you say you are doing nothing, that is a problem, because you might be headed for a …. fall.
How well are you aging tests
Doctors and therapists have a number of tests that measure how people are aging. One of them claims to be an excellent predictor of your chances of dying within 6 years. See Today Show Video
Chair test. Without using your hands or arms, can you sit in a chair, walk 5 yards, return, and sit down? Can you complete this test in 10 seconds? If so, great! You can practice by trying not to use your hands when you sit, get in and out of a car, or get on/off the toilet.
Stand on one front. Cross your arms and stare at a spot on the wall. Raise one foot just off the ground – can you sustain that for 30 seconds? This balance exercise is one you can practice and get better at.
Sit on the floor. Caution! Don’t try this if you have knee or other joint issues, And, unless you feel confident about your abilities, you could get hurt. If you feel up to it – Stand up, and now, sit on the floor. Can you do it without using your hands, arms, or knees? Once there, try to get up again. Very few people over 50 can sit down and get back up again without using their hands, arms, or some other type of support. If you can do it without support, you are unusually agile and strong. If you can get back up fairly easily using just one hand or knee, that is pretty good. If you need more help than that, then your core strength and agility is compromised, and you are at a higher risk of falling. People who score poorly on this test, according to some experts, are at a much higher risk of dying within 6 years.
What can you do to improve your agility?
If your health permits and your doctor approves, there are plenty of things you can do to not only preserve the condition you are in, but to improve it. As we age we lose muscle mass and flexibility – the unfortunate truth is we have to work hard just to stay the same. Here are some ideas on how to improve your agility and avoid life changing falls.
Classes. Although you could undoubtedly research agility and balance exercises on your own, it is the rare person who can not only find the right ones and also perform them correctly and regularly. Instead, if you take a class or hire a trainer it will be a lot more fun and get better results too. There are so many different kinds of exercise classes that can be fun and helpful. Your local Y, community center, or active community probably have lots of them. In many cases Silver Sneakers will pay for you these classes or your membership. Check out what is available in your area and get started. You’ll have fun, meet people, and start working to stave off the aging monster!
A personal trainer can be even better than a class (or an extra). A qualified trainer will evaluate your personal strengths and devise a program to improve your agility and balance. It should include exercises to help with your favorite activities, be those golf, tennis, walking, pickleball, etc.
“Do something every single day. Whether it is an exercise class, a sport, strength training, , yoga, or simply going for a walk, our bodies were designed to move, not to sit idle and rust away. Becoming sedentary is the silent enemy.”Leigh Pujado – Personal Trainer at WeBeFit
Some popular physical fitness programs to consider:
Tai chi is is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training, its health benefits and meditation.
Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It concentrates on loosening tense muscles and building balance and endurance in others, particularly your core.
Yoga, which comes in many varieties, works on improving your body’s flexibility. It is also meditative.
Simple stretches. Physical therapists, fitness instructors, and even the Internet can suggest simple stretches that can go a long way to preventing injuries and improving flexibility. Over the years your editor has accumulated a long list of them, most of them suggested by professionals to recover from and avoid repeating various injuries. All I can say is, they work!
Sports. If your health and joints permit, there are many sports that improve agility and build flexibility. But any active sport should be accompanied by stretching to reduce the risk of injury. Pickleball is growing immensely popular, with an explosion of new courts and players. At many communities and parks, people are lined up to participate. Tennis is also great because it involves running and side to side motion. Walking and hiking are great because they keep your legs strong and improve balance as you go over irregular surfaces. If hiking, we suggest you use hiking poles to help protect against falls. Swimming is very low impact and a great way to improve core strength and endurance. But is not probably not particularly good for balance or flexibility.
Get an exercise buddy. Many people have better success when they stretch or exercise with a friend. Call up your neighbor and go for a walk around the neighborhood. Or watch a Youtube video together for a quick yoga class. Having a buddy makes it a lot more fun.
You worked hard to get to retirement, and you are looking forward to so much. So don’t jeopardize your happiness by neglecting the basic maintenance for a sound body – get out there and do something! For more about how to prevent slips and falls, see article link in Further reading.
Comments: What do you do to improve your agility and balance? Do you have a favorite class or activity you could recommend? If you do, please mention it in the Comments section below.
For Further Reading: