October is Physical Therapy month, and the focus is on healthy aging and the many ways that physical therapists, as movement experts, can help people overcome pain, gain and maintain movement, and preserve their independence.
Here are nine tips to help you age well from the American Physical Therapy Association:
1. Chronic pain doesn’t have to be the boss of you. Each year 116 million Americans experience chronic pain from arthritis or other conditions, costing billions of dollars in medical treatment, lost work time, and lost wages. Proper exercise, mobility, and pain management techniques can ease pain while moving and at rest, improving your overall quality of life.
2. You can get stronger when you’re older. Research shows that improvements in strength and physical function are possible in your 60s, 70s, and even 80s and older with an appropriate exercise program. Progressive resistance training, in which muscles are exercised against resistance that gets more difficult as strength improves, has been shown to prevent frailty.
3. You may not need surgery or drugs for low back pain. Low back pain is often over-treated with surgery and drugs despite a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating that physical therapy can be an effective alternative—and with much less risk than surgery and long-term use of prescription medications.
4. You can lower your risk of diabetes with exercise.
One in four Americans over the age of 60 has diabetes. Obesity and physical inactivity can put you at risk for this disease. But a regular, appropriate physical activity routine is one of the best ways to prevent—and manage—type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
5. Exercise can help you avoid falls—and keep your independence
About one in three U.S. adults age 65 or older falls each year. More than half of adults over 65 report problems with movement, including walking 1/4 mile, stooping and standing. Group-based exercises led by a physical therapist can improve movement and balance and reduce your risk of falls. It can also reduce your risk of hip fractures (95 percent of which are caused by falls).
6. Your bones want you to exercise.
Osteoporosis or weak bones affects more than half of Americans over the age of 54. Exercises that keep you on your feet, like walking, jogging, or dancing, and exercises using resistance, such as weightlifting, can improve bone strength or reduce bone loss.
7. Your heart wants you to exercise.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the US. One of the top ways of preventing it and other cardiovascular diseases? Exercise! Research shows that if you already have heart disease, appropriate exercise can improve your health.
8. Your brain wants you to exercise.
People who are physically active—even later in life—are less likely to develop memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease, a condition which affects more than 40% of people over the age of 85.
9. You don’t “just have to live with” bladder leakage.
More than 13 million women and men in the US have bladder leakage. Don’t spend years relying on pads or rushing to the bathroom. Seek help from a physical therapist.