It is broadly accepted that with old age comes diminished physical capabilities.
Grabbing on to things for help.
On and on.
I am not a magician nor do I know any who can make an 80-year old function like a 40-year old.
What I do know is that the vast majority of seniors are in far worse physical condition than they could have been if they had entered and progressed through their retirement years doing the things necessary to prevent degradation.
It’s a harsh reality, but this is a great example of “you made your bed and now you have to sleep in it”.
Before you get offended that I am taking shots at your Great Aunt Gertrude and her chair she rides up the stairs, relax, I am going to make sure that you and your loved ones don’t end up this way.
Let’s get started.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Most people are aware that being overweight is linked to high blood pressure, type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, liver and kidney disease and so on.
We all know that already. They are not the point of this article.
Rather, I want to discuss how being overweight makes moving around suck.
If you are not currently overweight, imagine strapping 20, 30, 40, or 100 pounds to your back and going about your day. Then do it every day for the rest of your life.
You would cry if a multiple story building didn’t have an elevator or if you had to chase your dog who is on the loose.
Then imagine how pissed off your joints would be.
Sorry knees, but I’m going to put 100 pounds of extra pressure on you and force you to move around every day.
A HUGE number of knee replacement surgeries are primarily the result of being overweight.
The bottom line is, life sucks when you are overweight and being overweight as a senior when the rest of your body is slowly degrading is that much harder.
Keep your body weight in check.
2. Eat Plenty of Protein
I don’t care if you are a 68-year old male who plays golf every day or an 83-year old female who spends her day sewing, you MUST eat an adequate amount of protein.
I am not referring to drinking some crappy Boost supplement like my grandma and so many other older folks do. This is not a protein source. It is a carbohydrate and sugar bomb.
Into your 60s, 70s, and 80s, you are in a prime position to LOSE muscle. Your body slowly breaks down year after year and you continually get weaker because of it.
Protein is a big part of sustaining lean muscle tissue and preventing as much loss as possible.
Stop thinking that eating a lot of protein is only for bodybuilders. It is essential for maintaining muscle as you age.
Keep in mind there is a big difference between the amount required to function in daily life and the amount to actually resist muscle loss. Most internet searches are going to show the former.
3. Strength Train
Take a minute and think about the most demanding parts of a day for an elderly person.
-Climbing the stairs
– Getting off the toilet
-Getting in or out of the car
-Sitting down or getting up from a chair
-Sitting up in bed
-Picking something up off the floor
-Putting things in a high cupboard
These are STRENGTH challenges.
These are squats, lunges, deadlifts, step ups, leg press, back, shoulder, and core work, as well as many other things.
WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED TO HEAR?
LIFT WEIGHTS PEOPLE!
I am all for strength training in your teens, 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, but a lot of people forgo it.
If you haven’t made a decision to start strength training by your 50s, I am sorry, but you are just asking to be the frail bag of bones who doesn’t hardly leave their chair in old age.
There is a serious purpose to strength training in older years and it’s so that you can actually live life. To enjoy retirement and all the money you saved for the last 30 or 40 years and not sit around watching Judge Judy.
Time always wins, but you CAN put up a good fight.
4. Work on Your Mobility
Just like losing muscle and being weak restricts older folks from doing things, mobility is a large factor of restriction as well.
This is primarily seen with the shoulders and thoracic region.
As the upper back and shoulder muscles degrade, they cave forward and the chest in turn gets very tight, which virtually freezes the shoulders forward.
Bye-bye overhead/behind the head range of motion!
Reaching up into those higher cupboard, nope.
Doing a head check to change lanes when driving, nope.
As for the lower body, as the hips and legs lose mobility it becomes far more dangerous to handle stairs and getting in and out of things.
Strength allows a muscle the power to do something, but mobility lets it move the way it needs to in order to accomplish it.
Losing mobility is a very big problem for older folks and I am not talking only about people in their 70s and 80s.
I know many people in their 50s, 40s, and 30s who have mobility issues.
You have to catch these things early.
The final movement that is lost before a person is forced to be bedridden for the rest of their life is walking.
After they can no longer do stairs, sit on their own, or stand on their own, they just have walking left. Even if it is with a walker.
It’s the most basic human movement.
How do you practice this?
Don’t try to pick it up when you are 89, but be thinking about these things in your earlier years.
So many people let their loved ones sit around and degrade when they are still capable of walking and getting in activity.
Not only is walking the last thing that you lose, it is also the most intense thing you will need to do aerobically outside of stairs.
It is clearly worth hanging on to this freedom.
I told you, it’s simple.
It’s not easy.
I know you are thinking “it will never happen to me”.
Don’t worry, it will. Time waits for no one.
There will be a point where it’s too late.
I urge you to encourage your significant other, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, whoever, to begin these 5 things.
You just may save someone’s life.
If I can help in any way, feel free to message me at : JwaltersPT@gmail.com
For more on this from me, check out: https://jonwalters.co/2015/11/29/how-to-live-to-be-100/