WWhen it comes to physical activity, the equation is quite simple: The more we move, the better our body can support movement. However, the opposite is also true. The more seated we are, the more rigid and weak we become, so the more difficult the movement becomes.
“Many older adults become isolated and sedentary, making it difficult for them to walk and move when the time comes,” explains Brittany Ferri, PhD, CPRP, occupational therapist at Medical Solutions Barcelona. “The best way to maintain your movement is to exercise, that is, to walk, exercise, stretch and do whatever keeps you active.”
In particular, mobility exercises can be a key ingredient in increasing longevity and quality of life, especially for the elderly. These are the movements that aim at the range of motion in our joints (not to be confused with flexibility, which means increasing the length of our muscles). Greater mobility helps prevent falls, promotes balance and coordination, and maintains independence later in life, allowing us to function better in our daily activities.
How can mobility exercises improve longevity?
“Mobility exercises can allow us to stay more active, which helps regulate blood pressure, improves circulation, keeps joints and muscles flexible and helps balance,” explains Dr. Ferri. “This gives the elderly a better quality of life for a longer period of time.”
Helping us maintain adequate physical strength and balance, mobility exercises keep us safer and more independent, helping us to ‘navigate’ [our] environment easier and freer “, says Dr. Ferri. “It helps seniors have control over the activities they want to participate in.”
What are the most critical parts of mobility?
It can be scary to feel like you have to do a thorough exercise routine for every single part of your body and every joint. But Dr Ferri says focusing on a few key areas can be a great starting point.
“Hip movement is something that affects walking, which is why hip fractures and arthritis of the hip (leading to hip replacements) can be so debilitating,” he notes. “When the elderly have enough movement in the hips, they can walk with a wide support base, which helps them prevent falls and maintain better balance.”
Dr. Ferri also says that the back and core are important areas for improved functional life. They both help us to walk upright, which means that our eyes will be positioned correctly to scan the environment for dangers that might otherwise cause us to stumble and fall. “The strength of the core also helps relieve back pain which can limit a person’s ability to walk properly and with good posture,” he says.
6 best mobility exercises for longevity and healthy aging
Try to do these movements for the hips, back and core as many days a week as you can, devoting your time and focusing on the right shape. If you experience pain or discomfort, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
This challenging mobility exercise improves balance and gait.
- Find a line on the floor (either along boards / tiles or on the edge of a large rug) and walk slowly with one foot in front of the other along it, keeping your arms out on each side for balance.
- Take 20 to 25 steps and then turn.
2. Tree pose
Taken from yoga, this posture increases stability to maintain your balance, posture and mobility.
- Stand with both feet next to each other with a table or bench close together to hold on if you need to.
- Lift one leg slightly and turn the foot outward to rest it on the inside of the opposite thigh or shin.
- Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and then change sides.
3. Lying paths
This is an excellent mobility exercise for the core and hips. The focus should be on motion control, slow motion, and pull your navel inward to keep your spine neutral.
- Lie on your back with your hips bent so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, your knees are in the air bent at 90 degrees and your shins are parallel to the ground.
- Stretch your abs while slowly lowering one leg to the ground, keeping your knee bent.
- Gently tap your foot on the floor and then lift your foot back to its original position using only your core muscles.
- Change leg by alternating sides for 16 to 20 reps in total (8 to 10 per leg).
4. Foot taps
This movement improves balance and coordination, while increasing the mobility of the hip joints.
- Hold on to a table or bench if needed for balance.
- Move one foot to the side (as if tapping your feet) and tap your foot on the ground.
- Return the foot to its original position next to your other foot.
- Rest for 1 to 2 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
- Swap between legs for a total of 10 reps.
As you get stronger, you can go faster and increase the number of repetitions.
5. Upright paths
This mobility exercise improves core strength, coordination and posture symmetry and can support steady walking.
- Hold on to a table or bench.
- Stretch your abs and bend one hip and knee to lift this leg up towards your chest as if walking in its place.
- Swing the legs, bringing each knee as high as you can comfortably.
- Complete 20 reps, moving with control.
6. Stand with one foot
This stability exercise builds hip, core and leg strength as well as balance.
- Hold on to a table or bench.
- Raise one leg high by bending your knee and hip.
- Hold for 10 seconds and then lower your leg.
- Rest for 10 seconds.
- Repeat five more times on the same leg and then move on to the next leg.
Remember, staying active and moving your body can be the key to staying glowing and healthy. Even devoting a few minutes a day to being active can make a big difference.
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