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How to keep mobile and supple as you get older

People around fifty years of age or earlier will usually notice their joints getting stiffer and muscles tighter.

As a Registered Osteopath, I hear this a lot in practice, “Oh it's just getting older” is usually the phrase. However, have you stopped to think if that is really the case? It is true that our tissues lose some elasticity with the reduction in collagen as we head beyond fifty, however research has shown it is a case of “use it or lose it” rather than the passing years that determines how mobile we are as we get older.

Movement is crucial for ‘oiling’ our joints with synovial fluid and improving the blood supply carrying nutrients and oxygen to every one of our nine trillion cells in our body.

Here are the top seven points for keeping mobile as we age:

Develop a daily routine of gentle stretches - this can be a short as five minutes but needs to be done daily. Once you start, be determined to continue each day for the whole week, then add another week till you get to 3 or 4 weeks and then decide if it is helpful to you. Not missing a day means you can never go through being stiff and sore again!​​

Time your stretches for the same time each day, at a time that works for you. People often find either first thing before breakfast, or when first home from work or just before bed are the best times in their busy schedule. I could say that “you wouldn't miss brushing your teeth for a day so think of your mobility exercise like that and don't miss a day!”

Start gently and slowly build up. Some days you may only manage a couple of minutes and do your favourites, but at least you have not missed a day. Over time you might start to enjoy them so much you go to ten minutes or even twenty minutes on the weekend and really feel the benefits. Adding in a weekly class in Pilates or yoga with a qualified and experienced teacher is also very beneficial to support the daily practice and correct any technique issues you may have.

If you are not sure what exercises to start with, ask one of our Reg. Osteopaths, we are experts in anatomy, physiology and suitable exercises. Also, if we have treated you, we are pretty clued up about what will be best for your body too!

Walking is usually a good way to get moving and within most people's ability. Try to walk on natural ground, that is surfaces that have some 'interest' to them rather than just flat pavements. Using minimalist footwear can really help improve the amount of proprioceptive feedback your central nervous system gets from your feet and legs which can be very helpful in reducing some forms of back pain.

Ideally get your partner, friends or whole family joining in! If you can encourage each other, this will help you keep going. Also, the whole family and your friends benefit, with better posture and mood (think blood to brain and more exercise induced endorphins).

Add some balance exercises in there, this can be as simple as standing on one foot as you brush your teeth. Right foot for the top teeth, left foot for the bottom teeth. Falls are what can really set a person back when they are getting older, it's the fall and break a hip which may be the injury never quite recovered from.

(PS: If you have already fallen then you don't need a doctors referral to come see one of our osteopaths. We can help you fill out the ACC forms in our clinic. We are able get you back on your feet in the nicest possible way then give you some suitable exercises to help prevent recurrence and to improve your overall wellness and mobility).

Finally, I can report this works, not just from research but from my experience, having just completed eight years of daily mobility and strengthening exercises without missing a day. I feel SO good with this daily routine. I found by committing to it and waking a bit earlier I have been able to fit it into each day, while working full-time as a Registered Osteopath and small business owner and being mum to two primary school age children.

"If you can allocate the small amount of time and make a commitment to yourself to do it daily, I promise you that keeping mobile as you age, IS possible!"