Another new year has arrived, and we just keep spinning around the sun! For some, a new year can bring the hope of resolutions and big dreams. For others, it may be a reminder of the passage of time, another year older. But like that little girl from the taco commercial once said: “why not both?!” There are many myths about aging, but you’re only as old as you feel, right? Perhaps this year, physical therapy can help you feel younger by following these top 5 ways to optimize your health beyond 50.
1) Maintain Strength:
Adults generally begin to lose a small percentage of their peak muscle mass each year after about their 30s. This does not mean that we are unable to optimize our health beyond 50. We retain the ability to continue to train and strengthen our muscles. If you’ve ever had a cast on your arm or leg, you’ve seen how quickly our muscles will shrink up when we can’t (or simply, don’t) use them. But once the cast came off and you were able to start using your arm or leg again, you began to feel stronger and the muscles got bigger! Our bodies like to work as efficiently as possible, so we won’t maintain muscle bulk that our bodies don’t think we need. So, if you are feeling weak or noticing a lack of function, it is possible to train your muscles and build back up the strength you need to keep you active and moving.
2) Stay Balanced:
Balance is quite multifactorial, including eyesight, strength, sensation, and vestibular structures in the inner ear. Changes in balance are absolutely related to normal aging, and can also be affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, which can affect sensation in the bottom of the feet. However, if you or a loved one are experiencing unsteadiness that increases the risk for a fall, physical therapy can certainly help! A PT can help in suggesting appropriate footwear, create a plan for strengthening the core and hip muscles for stability, work on balance reactions, and provide education on home and community safety to reduce the risk of falls.
3) Address Dizziness:
Similar to balance, dizziness may be a part of normal aging, such as dizziness that accompanies moving from lying down to sitting. However, if you are experiencing persistent dizziness or dizziness that is brought on while lying or sitting still, this may be something that a vestibular physical therapist can help you to address! Addressing dizziness can be integral in maintaining safety and preventing falls.
4) Manage Aches and Pains:
As a physical therapist, I hate to hear that someone has been living with worsening joint pain because they thought it was just part of getting older. Arthritis and other degenerative joint changes can certainly affect your health beyond 50. Oftentimes, physical therapy can help with managing these symptoms and improving the overall ability to participate in daily tasks and recreational activities. Make this the year that you finally do something about that achy knee, stiff back, or pinching in your shoulder that comes and goes!
5) Don’t Settle for Incontinence:
I know this one can be tough to believe, especially with the number of advertisements and products available for liners and adult diapers. Male or female, leaking urine is never normal and is certainly not a typical part of getting older. And yes, this includes people who have been pregnant and/or given birth. Incontinence can indicate a pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, and a trained pelvic floor therapist can help you with incontinence.
January may be in the middle of winter, but it’s about time to add a little spring back in your step! If you don’t yet have a goal set for the new year, show your current and future self some love and invest in your physical health beyond 50. Reach out to your friends at Action Potential to see how we can help you feel your best, even as time marches on.