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Preserving mobility

March 6th, 2014 11:15 am by Marie Browning, MS, CNW

Preserving mobility

Safeguarding my independence for as long as possible is very important to me, and in order to achieve this, preserving mobility is crucial. Loss of mobility due to blindness, dizziness and general frailty are the most common reasons behind nursing home or long-term-care facility admissions.

Inflammatory conditions cause painful joints, cardiovascular diseases and other problems that can ultimately lead to loss of functional mobility. Blindness as a result of uncontrolled diabetes is a major cause of loss of independence. Diabetes-related amputations are not far behind. Injuries, illness or surgeries can temporarily or permanently affect mobility, and neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease also eventually create mobility issues.

This article's focus is on the aspects of mobility that affect the average person with no serious illness: vision, muscle strength, joint and bone integrity, balance, and flexibility.

Can you see well enough to get around safely? See vision specialists regularly to monitor eye health and corrective lens prescriptions. Take care of your eyes by eating deeply colored fruits and vegetables, controlling diabetes and avoiding sugar even if you aren't diabetic.

Use it or lose it is especially true when it comes to muscle strength. As we age, fighting muscle mass loss becomes a constant battle. If you aren't using and challenging your muscles on a daily basis, you lose about 1 percent per year after middle age. This loss rapidly accelerates after age 70. However, it is possible to regain a remarkable degree of strength regardless of age; all it takes is a little effort.

Most communities offer a wide variety of senior-oriented exercise classes, and ours is no exception. Swimming is easy on the joints and works the whole body. Engage in appropriate weight training. Carry what you can as often as you can. Small cushioned hand weights are great for exercising arms and upper body, and can even be used while watching television.

Bone and joint integrity requires good nutrition and regular exercise. Know that leafy greens like kale are better for bone building than dairy products, and well-made chicken or beef broth made from meaty bones contains all the nutrients necessary for strong bones and joints. These include calcium, glucosamine, chondroitan and hyaluronic acid, to name but a few.

Having good balance means fewer falls and more confidence to come and go as you please and enjoy many activities. Balance can be improved easily unless you have inner ear problems.

Stand with your feet together, then lift one off the ground without holding on to anything. Switch feet. You'll probably find you are better at it with a specific foot, but it's important to practice and gain the ability to stand on either foot for at least 20 seconds. Now, within reach of a stable prop, stand on one foot and close your eyes. Simply put, the longer you can balance yourself on a single foot with your eyes closed, the "younger" your body is.

Flexibility decreases with age, partly because we no longer regularly move our body as much as we should, and partly because our joints simply become tighter and more brittle as we age. Regular, gentle stretching exercises are extremely important. And consider appropriate yoga classes to improve flexibility at any age.

Researchers have identified four critical markers that can predict not only future mobility, but also the likelihood of reaching a healthy old age. These are: grip strength, walking pace, ability to rise from a chair, and standing balance as described above.

Hand grip strength primarily reflects arm and hand strength, but it's apparently much more complex. Be aware that, unless she makes an effort to maintain her strength, a woman who has a grip strength of 70 pounds at age 33 may only have a grip strength of 30 pounds by the time she reaches age 83. This frailty has far reaching consequences.

Walking pace is self-explanatory. The faster you normally walk, and the faster you can walk for a sustained period of time, the better off you are. Walk more often — faster and farther. Aim for 30 minutes a day, even if you do it in 10-minute intervals. Park farther away and use stairs whenever possible. Walk outside in the sunshine to improve your mood and help you sleep better.

The ability to rise quickly and easily from a sitting position involves strength, joint integrity, and balance. Imagine sitting in a firm, straight-back chair. Do you use both arms to "shove off"? Do you reach for assistance? Do you grunt, groan and bemoan your difficulty in rising? Why? Practice rising smoothly and easily, and quietly!

You are what you eat, of course, and I'll cover more specific nutritional recommendations next month. Future articles on bone and joint health, inflammation, and more are also coming.

Address and resolve any health issues that are sabotaging your efforts to improve your overall wellness. Lose excess weight, reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar levels, and most importantly, don't wait any longer to get healthier; the time is now!

Marie Browning, MS, CNW is certified in holistic nutrition. Her spring wellness programs for women are just starting. Learn more at or at Healthier Solutions by Marie on Facebook. You can also contact her at (423) 367-1396.

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