Why Optimal Mobility Is Central To Aging
Humans move. It’s what we do.
We move to eat, to play, to work. We even move to express emotions and
communicate thoughts. And if you’ve ever suffered a physical injury, you
know how difficult it can be to navigate when your mobility is challenged.
This is one of the struggles of getting older ; experiencing increasing
limitations to our ability to move. Yet, optimal mobility needs to be a focus
as we age.
What Is Optimal Mobility?
There’s no denying that aging reduces mobility. Once simple actions such
as carrying grocery bags, getting up from a chair or bed, or even walking
across a room become more challenging. As mobility begins to decrease,
so too does the ability to remain independent.
Optimal mobility is defined as the relative ease and freedom of movement
one experiences. And maintaining it is fundamental to aging and
maintaining independence. This is where there’s something of a catch-22.
Good joint health is essential for optimal mobility. Yet our priorities change
as we age and many older people stop participating in physical activities. In
doing so, they lose the strength that’s essential to keeping a healthy range
of motion in their joints. As range of motion in the joint decreases, pain
increases. With pain, the desire to move lessens. And it goes on and on.
Quality of Movement Decreases As We Age
This is just the reality.
And wanting to move can be harder (much harder sometimes) as we age
because it hurts. The less active we are, however, the more our muscles
tighten. Flexibility goes out the window, range of motion becomes limited,
and injuries are more likely to occur. Especially for older people who are
attempting to exercise and move as they did when they were younger.
Functional limitations are becoming increasingly impactful among senior
citizens. From the age of 25 to the age of 80, muscle strength can
decrease by as much as 50%. In addition, the slowing of brain processing,
nerve signaling, and muscle contraction makes it more difficult to react
rapidly and do two things at once.
Aging also impairs one’s ability to produce muscle force with steadiness.
This means it becomes difficult to move the limbs smoothly and accurately,
thereby challenging postural stability and balance in order to avoid falls and
move more effectively.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The good news is, optimal mobility is
improved through continued movement and exercise.
Regular Exercise Is Key for Mobility
You’ve heard the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But
that’s a fatalistic viewpoint when it comes to movement as we age.
An impressive body of research shows that older folks are capable of
substantial plasticity (which is the ability to change) to their joints and
muscles in response to exercise. This is particularly the case when using
interventions that aim to increase muscle strength for the express purpose
of maintaining mobility.
There is a wealth of mobility training exercises . These include stretching,
mobility drills, and foam rolling. In addition, a regular walking regimen is key
in maintaining mobility. There is also a multitude of low-impact exercises
that go the distance in building strength such as cycling, rowing, and
Resistance training is also key. Barre and Pilates as well as gentle yoga
are amazing options for older adults. And stretching to increase flexibility is
also hugely beneficial in increasing range of motion around the joint.
Controlled dynamic stretching tends to be a better option than static or
ballistic stretching in this case.
It’s important to note that mobility and flexibility are not the same
thing. They are related though. Mobility is the ability to move a joint while
flexibility is the ability of the muscle that moves the body part to stretch. In order to execute a full range of motion in the joint, you need flexibility in the muscle.
So if you want to continue to sip from the fountain of youth, keep on
See How Pilates Can Improve Your Mobility
It’s clear that optimal mobility corrects muscular imbalances, improves
posture, provides better range of motion, prevents injuries, and just allows
for more efficient movement in everyday movements.
Partaking in daily physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain it.
So if you’re ready to see how Pilates can help support the health of your
joints, bones, and muscles as you age, contact us today. We’ll keep you
safely moving so you can stay mobile.