After administering over 55,000 physiotherapy treatments, I have noticed the over-60s who remain strong are active – they do something every day, they avoid becoming couch-bound. I see plenty of people who are in their 60s or 70s who still feel like they are in their 50s physically.
This puts them in good stead as they head into old age. Even small things make a difference, and the biggest ‘small thing’ we can do is move regularly. Not moving enough makes you feel old before your time, with negative impact on your happiness and well-being. It’s tough being in pain, and not being able to do what you used to do.
Don’t let the simplicity regular movement implies fool you – this is extremely powerful with long-lasting benefits for your physical and mental health. Everyone is different – if you have an issue you need sorted out or have some questions regarding your health and fitness it’s best to consult a professional. And never be afraid to get a second opinion.
But for keeping your physical health in check consider the following:
Get a professional diagnosis
Too many seniors are suffering from ailments which have not been properly diagnosed. Sometimes they have been wrongly self-diagnosed through Dr Google, but often they have been examined professionally and need a second opinion. Any lingering problems which cause you pain are frustrating on so many levels. They need to be addressed before escalating into more severe problems in old age.
Among the most common misdiagnoses I see in over 60s is people believing they have a slipped disc in the back, when their back pain almost always stems from something else. Another one is sciatica –pain stemming from a knee or lower back issue can mimic the shooting nerve pain similar to sciatica, throwing your diagnosis off course.
I have seen many people who have suffered for too long eventually find a way out from pain and discomfort by trying new things, by having the courage to re-think their diagnosis and seek another opinion.
Improve your posture, improve your life
There is a strong link between good health and posture. Many problems I see, from back pain to neck pain, to arm pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, hip pain and headaches, are caused by poor posture. If you have poor posture, it will show up somewhere!
Seated posture is a particular issue. If posture is an issue for you, I recommend finding ways to address it. Staying mobile, active and keeping strength in your core is also positive for posture because it provides you the adequate support.
Finally, good posture is linked with a healthier mental state. I have seen first hand how elite athletes use good posture as part of their strong body language to ‘get in the zone’.
Move it or lose it
We know exercise is good for us, but there’s still so much we don’t understand. Scientists are getting closer to understanding how exercise benefits us at a molecular level – a recent study showed people who exercise have different proteins moving through their body than people who do not. The study is not yet conclusive but we do know these proteins are linked with various important health functions including immune response, blood sugar levels and wound healing. The more research is done on exercise the more we find it benefits us in many and varied ways, both physical and mental.
Don’t wait on weights
Gradually losing muscle mass is a normal part of ageing – this makes some weight-bearing exercise essential. A recent study shows that weight training at least twice per week can help over-65s to live longer. But it’s also about living better: Retaining muscle mass helps you feel good, keeps you strong and helps reduce risk of serious injury from falls.
Even doing regular push-ups makes a big difference. You cannot stop losing muscle mass completely but it can be slowed significantly by keeping up a good diet, and by doing weight-bearing exercises.
Properly prepare for surgery
Coping with surgery involves some physical preparation and a good mindset. There is a big difference between over-60s who recover from surgery quickly, and those who struggle. Giving the time needed to prepare is critical. Many over-60s benefit from having an assessment done beforehand, and engaging some pre-op physio: we find pre-op physiotherapy typically improves post-op recovery time by 25-75% depending on the individual.
Recovery is a whole other issue. If you’ve gone into the surgery in the best shape you can be then you should recover faster. But it can be a long road back – the main thing once again is regular movement: not moving before you’re ready, and not over-doing it, but moving often within tolerable pain levels. Consider other treatments such as hydrotherapy, and listen to the professionals. They are there to help.
How do you manage your physical health as you age? Do you exercise more nowadays, or do you find it harder to get motivated?
Article by: kusal–goonewardena