Aging gracefully is about living a full and vital life. It is about maintaining your physical and mental faculties so that you can continue to participate in life.  Aging is     inevitable; aging gracefully requires discipline and responsibility.

Balance issues begin with poor posture and can begin to affect a person as young as 30. Poor posture is often ignored at this age because its effects do not seem permanent. By the time balance becomes an issue it is difficult if not impossible to reverse.

Compromised balance causes a person to become reclusive. Venturing out to the mall or the park becomes dangerous. It is safer to stay home and sit in the recliner than to risk falling.

Balance affects even trivial activities at home, such as bathing, cooking or walking up or down stairs. As a person’s balance deteriorates, he or she becomes more sedentary, weaker and more feeble, which only serves to accelerate the rate of aging and deterioration.

Standing and walking is the first significant milestone in a child’s development.  Once a child is able to stand and walk, his or her development progresses exponentially. By the same token, losing the ability to walk unsupported or unassisted is a cardinal signs of old age. Once a person loses the ability to walk, his or her capacities seem to decline exponentially. The difference between the two is a child learns to walk in a matter of days or weeks. Loss of balance occurs over several years.

Most of us are sedentary. All of our work is in front of us. We drive our cars and sit on front of computers or behind a desk most of the day. This inactive lifestyle weakens the hip flexors and core that hold the body upright and the shoulder muscles that control the position of the shoulder blades.

You have to find time in your day to walk. Get on your feet and move. Walking is the fundamental exercise that improves the posture, improves oxygenation and circulation.  Good muscle tone will result in good sitting posture whereas the best sitting posture will do nothing to improve your overall health and fitness.

Here are a few challenges that you can use  as indicators of good posture and mobility:

Can you get into a full squat position and stand from that position without assistance? How about a half squat? How about getting out of a chair without pushing off with your hands?

Can you stand against a wall and extend your arms completely overhead?  Can you clasp your hands behind your back? How about laying your palms flat against each other behind your back? Can you grasp your elbows behind your back? How old are you? How much more mobility do you expect to lose between now and age 80?

I recommend that you get proactive about this now, not wait until you are in your 60’s or 70’s to become concerned about this. The longer you wait the more difficult the road to recovery. If you doubt the urgency of this matter, look around at the people 30-40 years older than you. What do you suppose they thought about their balance or posture when they were your age? What advise do you suppose they would give you? Don’t get old, take care of yourself and life is not valuable without health. There is wisdom in those words but it is only valuable if you pay attention now and not wait until you are that age.

I suggest that you begin walking at least 30 minutes a day. You should walk briskly, with good posture and good mechanics. Stand tall, chest out and lift those legs. Don’t drag your feet. Set a target pace of 20 minutes per mile.

There are many exercises that you can do at home without fancy weights or equipment to strengthen your hip flexors and shoulder muscles. Simple calisthenics are sufficient to start. I recommend Tai Chi or Yoga for the more advanced.

I teach my patients to stand on one foot and to exercise on one foot. This is good for the balance and it engages the core muscles. Your first objective should be to stand on one foot quietly for three minutes.

This has to be part of your retirement plan, the part that assures a quality of life in your Golden Years. It is a program that everyone can do at home. It is a program that will pay huge dividends in your future.

Think about how you will be remembered. Do you want to be remembered as the sickly one that required constant care and medication? Or do you want to be vital and active right to the end?

I hope that you decide to make good posture and balance a necessary responsibility, one that you will work on as you grow old so that you may continue to live a full and vibrant life.





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