Growing older is inevitable but the rapid physical deterioration we call “aging” does not have to be. In fact, the aging process can be slowed down or in some cases reversed with a consistent exercise program. Numerous studies show adults who make regular exercise a part of their lifestyle are biologically younger by almost 10 years than those who do not exercise. In fact, lack of exercise is responsible for about half of the physical decline associated with aging!
Each year, one in three adults age 65 and older experience a fall, which can lead to injuries such as hip fractures and head traumas. Many organizations stress “home proofing” to prevent the likelihood of falls by removing throw rugs, installing better lighting, etc., and while those are smart things to do, many falls actually occur outside the home. A better method is what we at REHAB Hospital call “Body-Proofing.”
Body-Proofing utilizes exercises designed specifically to address issues of balance, muscle weakness and lack of “fluid” movements. Can you get up from a low chair without using your hands? Can you go up or down stairs without holding on to the handrail? Can you put a pair of pants on in a standing position? If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above, read on!
The key to Body-Proofing is “core” strength. Your “core” often refers to the center of gravity, deep in the abdominal cavity. The actual muscles of the “core” are the deep muscles that make up the internal abdominal wall as well as your pelvic floor and spinal musculature. This group of muscles stabilizes the body during movements. Balance is all about maintaining stability while we are moving. The other key muscles are what I refer to as the “anti-gravity muscles,” those that hold us up against gravity—the hip, thigh and calf muscles that must remain not only strong but also limber in order to react quickly.
Pilates is almost a perfect form of Body-Proofing exercise and that’s why we utilize it for rehabilitation programs. It focuses on core strength, with emphasis on stabilizing the body while you move against resistance. If done properly, it is an exercise program that conditions the body back to its optimal state of strength, flexibility and stability. Other methods include martial arts with its emphasis on stability, flexibility and strength. Or even something as gentle as Tai Chi can be powerful in emphasizing balance, fluid movements and strength through its controlled upright positions.
One best-selling author and medical expert often uses the concept of “real age” as how well a person is maintaining their physical health based on lifestyle choices. Rapid physical deterioration as we grow older is not inevitable. You can choose to “grow younger” with the right exercise program, at any age.
Teresa Wong is a physical therapist, certified Pilates instructor and manager of the Rehab Hospital Of the Pacific Nu‘uanu Clinic. The clinic provides state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs for individuals recovering from injuries and illnesses. Visit online at www.rehabatnuuanu.org; email, firstname.lastname@example.org