older practicing lady balancing on one leg

Bottomline

As we get older we have to do more to keep our body moving well. As time goes by, the speed we can “get up and go” slows down. For improved quality of life as we age, there are a few movements you should not avoid and a few movements you should do regularly - take the stairs, get on the ground and get back up, stand on one foot, touch your toes, and move your joints in all directions. Also, keep your feet active by going barefoot often.

5 Simple Movements to Keep You Moving Well

Movement and Aging

Most of you know, as we get older we have to do more to keep moving well. As time goes by, the speed we can “get up and go” slows down. For improved quality of life as we age, there are a few movements you should not avoid and some movements you should do regularly. 


In my experience working as a nurse, I cared for many patients who struggled with their self-care and daily living activities. Once becoming a personal trainer, I was drawn to specializing in corrective exercise. Helping people move better and with more freedom than they had before, especially if they had a history of joint issues and surgeries. 


Being able to move better than you did before is empowering and gives hope. Helping people squat without pain, get up the stairs without being short of breath, and improve their back pain so they can resume activities they enjoy are a few of the things I have the privilege of helping clients achieve.


As I have trained with more seasoned clientele over the years, there are some movements I make sure to incorporate into our sessions. It is not just about getting someone stronger, showing them how to tone up or lose weight, but helping them move better in their everyday lives at the current time and in time to come. 


5 Simple Movements to Keep You Moving Well

To help combat the effects aging has on how well the body moves, I recommend five easy movements no matter what age you are. 


Below is a video demonstrating and discussing these listed movements.


1. Take the stairs.

When walking up the stairs, try to land with the whole foot or as much of it as possible on the step rather than just the ball of the foot and toes. Using just the front of the foot can put extra strain on the knees. Using the whole foot, especially pressing up from the heel, activates the backside of the leg. Those glutes and hamstrings need more attention since they can be very stagnant most of the day due to long periods of sitting. 


Taking the stairs up can increase stamina as the heart rate rises quickly to meet the demand. But I think going down the stairs provides even more benefit. Your body has to decelerate itself to keep you from falling down the stairs. It can build your confidence in your body for those situations when you have to step down from something, like a curb. 


Many older individuals don’t like taking the stairs for fears of falling. Reduce your risk of falls later in life by taking the stairs often now. Actually, search for opportunities to use them. Pick the stairs over the elevator.


2. Get on the ground and get back up.

The phrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get back up” is probably one of the most well-recognized phrases associated with a commercial that first aired in 1989. There is literally a Wikipedia article about it. I can’t imagine anyone who would want to be in that situation. The older we get, the less likely we are to get on the ground on purpose for many reasons. There will come a time when you have no choice but to get down and you don’t want to be stuck there, especially if there is nothing close by to help you. 


In the fitness world, we have a movement specific to this - starting from a laying position working to a half-kneeling position to a standing position and then back down in reverse. This is called a Turkish Get Up and it is one of the best moves you can do, especially weighted. To see what it looks like, I demonstrate one in this video.

But you don’t need to be familiar with that move to practice getting up and getting down. Get on the floor and get yourself back up. Play with young kids or a pet on the floor. I just don’t want you to ever find yourself in a situation where you are unable to get back up on your own.


3. Stand on one foot.

Being able to stay balanced seems like it should be an easy thing to do, but in fact, it can be very challenging. To stay balanced, you have to activate small stabilizer muscles to keep you..well...stabilized. If you aren’t intentionally using those stabilizer muscles for that purpose, they may not be able to respond as you need them to when the time comes.


Also, if those stabilizers aren’t activating properly, your back may be the one to take over, resulting in lower back pain. So, to help improve your confidence for one-legged activities or situations where you are unexpectedly tripped up, work on standing on one leg while doing a simple activity like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. You will probably find that one side is more stable than the other. Most of us tend to favor shifting our weight to one leg.


You can also test and see how long you can stand raising one leg up, then the other for max time. If you are consistent with this balance practice, you should see an increase in how long you can hold over time. For help balancing, focus on a single point in front of you. For even more of a challenge, close your eyes while you stand on one leg.


4. Touch your toes.

One of the most common restricted range of motion areas I see in my older clients is their inability to touch their toes. They struggle to put on their socks and shoes or with being able to pick up something that fell on the floor.


But not being able to touch your toes is also frequently seen in my younger clients, including teens. Now some of us were naturally born with more flexibility than others. They are fortunate. For the rest of us not so flexible people, we’ve got to move those hips and work to reach our toes.


To help, reach for your toes. Make sure you push the weight toward the back of the heels as you reach down. As you come up, go at a slow pace, rolling up one vertebra at a time. Coming up too fast may cause a surprise in your back. Try putting socks on and tying shoelaces without sitting. Stand up tall after each time you reach for your toes.


5. Move your joints in all directions.

This all is coming down to a lack of mobility. We go from active play as a little kid to sitting at a desk for school with some activity to a career where we sit even more and choose not to be very involved with movement-based extracurricular activities. So, no wonder our bodies tighten over time.


If we aren’t moving our joints in all the directions they were made to move, we will have more aches and pains and restrictions when we try to do something we want. This also increases the risk for injuries.


To avoid this, move your joints in all the directions they were made to move every day. From the neck to the shoulders to the elbows to the wrists. To the back to the hips to the knees to the ankles. It will help to promote circulation and lubrication of the joints. Even if you are involved in regular exercise, if that workout doesn’t move your joints in all the directions, you will want to do this, too.


One More Important Tip

One last and very important suggestion…


Get out of your shoes! 


As we get older, we tend to want to keep our feet covered all the time. Our feet are full of sensory nerves and little muscles to help us stay balanced. When they are covered up all the time, those nerves and muscles become dormant. 


Many older people wear shoes because they feel more stable in them. It can be doing more harm than good because those nerves and muscles can’t do their job to be active and help support us. So, get out of your shoes. Walk around the house barefoot or at least thin socks. Do activities or movements around the house barefoot. Let your feet stay awake. Even at a young age, don’t keep your feet or your kid’s feet in shoes all the time if you are able. 


Video of the 5 Movements:

I want you to live the highest possible quality of life. That is why I do what I do. That is why as a nurse I wanted to find a way to help people reduce their risk of being hospitalized or in a state where they can’t completely take care of themselves. I want you to live to the end of your days moving well and often and not missing out on what you were meant to do or be a part of. Doing these five simple movements will help.


If you would like some assistance with creating a movement habit or personal training to help you move safely and get stronger, please schedule a free coaching call with me.

 

To your best health and wellness,

Jen


Tags

aging, movement


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