We see them, and we marvel -- older people who are out and about enjoying life and moving as though they haven't aged a day past 35. They're still playing tennis, swimming, jogging, or traveling the globe.
How can we all maintain that level of vitality and pursue the activities we love as we get older? Perhaps the most important thing is to move well, and move often. Mobility exercises are a great way to ensure that your body is in shape for a lifetime of quality movement.
Most people are aware of the importance of exercise when it comes to controlling weight and reducing the risk of heart problems. But exercise isn't just about burning calories and strengthening muscles -- it's also about keeping your bones strong and your joints moving well. Like muscle, bones are living tissue, and they grow stronger when we use them.
Getting Started With Mobility
So, what kinds of exercises should you include in your daily routine to stay mobile and promote healthy joints and bones, in addition to improving your overall fitness? Mobility exercises are excellent for these goals. As you start to focus more on mobility, be sure to:
- Keep It Moderate. Maintaining mobility doesn't require strenuous exercise. In fact, new research indicates that moderate exercise generates the greatest health benefits.
- Select Weight-Bearing Exercises. Focus on movements that you perform standing up, as they force your bones and joints to work against gravity. Programs like yoga and tai chi improve your balance and flexibility, which are important components for health and future mobility, but they aren't as effective as weight-bearing workouts when it comes to strengthening bones.
- Find Exercises You Enjoy. If you love what you're doing, it won't feel so much like work. Find a regular group exercise class, go on hikes, or take up tennis or dancing. Focus on mobility-specific moves that you like performing as well. Some of the best mobility exercises focus on hip flexion, external rotation, and soft-tissue work.
- Be Consistent. The American Heart Association recommends a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week, but you can split that up in a way that works best for your schedule. Your daily routine might run for 30 minutes at a time, or you can break your mobility exercises into shorter segments -- whatever sets you up to stay as consistent as possible.
- Create a Structure. Have a setup for each exercise session that incorporates mobility. Warm up for five to 10 minutes, perform your main activity, cool down, and then wrap up your session with stretching and mobility work.
It's Never Too Late
The younger you can start working on mobility, the better -- but on the other hand, it's never too late to start performing exercises that will keep you moving.
Exercise also helps maintain strength and balance for older people with specific joint and bone conditions. Stretching, swimming, and walking are good for osteoarthritis in your knees and hips. A person with osteoporosis, a disease where bones lose density and strength, can try weight-bearing exercises. Daily stretching helps people experiencing low back pain.
Remember, mobility is a use-it-or-lose-it matter. If you want to move well later in life, start moving now.