Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mobility in America: 10 Very Simple Ways Older Adults Can Be More Active

In a study recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five adults in the United States has a disability. That's a staggering statistic if you ask me.

The researchers also found that the highest percentages of people with disabilities are generally in the Southern states. 

The report did not determine why differences occur by state. However, states in the South tend to have the highest rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes, which are typically associated with disability. 

I wasn't too surprised by that news, because, for two years in a row (2010 and 2011),  Corpus Christi was the Fattest City in America. What was alarming were the actual percentages:  31.5% of adults in Alabama and 31.4% of adults in Mississippi and Tennessee are disabled. What's going on y'all?

The report indicated  the most common functional disability, which was reported by one in eight American adults,  was "mobility limitation." 

Extreme heat and summer vacation laziness have combined to cause "mobility limitations" for my children this summer- I practically have to push those kids through the door to get them outside. But, that's not what the CDC is talking about. Rather, they define a mobility limitation as "serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs."

Like so many things, mobility is one of those things most of us take for granted until we begin to lose it. That's usually the point in time when we realize that even a simple, relatively uneventful day requires a great deal of strength, balance, coordination and stamina.

So, what are we to do?

Experts agree that the single most important thing you can do to remain mobile and independent is to engage in regular physical activity. We need to be active and to stay active. Aging Americans, including the patients on your caseload, need to be told: Never Stop Moving!

Some may say, "It's too late. I haven't been physically active in years. What good would it do if I started now?"

For the vast majority of people, it is never too late to start. Evidence shows that starting a regular exercise program even after decades of inactivity brings great health benefits.

Of course, people who are older and out of shape will need to start slowly and increase their exercise program incrementally, but come on everyone...let's get moving. 

We've all heard that it's smart to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park  a little further and walk a little more. But, let's be honest, most of our patients can't handle such heart pumping activities.

Here's a short list of practical things anyone can do at home:
  • stand or pace while you talk on the phone- it puts you on your feet
  • play with your pet- it's good for both of you
  • do a little dance- find a partner and sway along with the music
  • dust, sweep, mop, or clean something- anything
  • wash dishes- bubbles can be so much fun
  • fold clothes- score bonus points with this one
  • exercise while you watch TV- pedal a bike, use bands or light weights
  • assist with or prepare a meal-  set the table while you're at it
  • stretch- you could even try yoga
  • wave your hands in the air like you just don't care- that's really fun

This week, as you go about your work, in addition to all of the other guidance and recommendations you provide, when appropriate, consider encouraging your patients, friends and family to get moving using some of these simple, functional activities. 

Share this post and spread the mobility leads to disability! 

If you have any other ideas for senior appropriate physical activities, please leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading...have a great week. Now, get out there and go move that body of yours.

A body in motion will remain in motion. A body at rest will remain at rest.
Sir Isaac Newton