People often associate aging with physical decline. However, research has shown that physical function can improve well into older adulthood. Physical therapists prescribe physical activity that can help you overcome pain, gain and maintain movement, and preserve your independence, often helping you avoid surgery or long-term use of prescription drugs. Here are nine ways physical therapy can help you with healthy aging.
1. Chronic Pain Does Not Have To Control You
Each year 116 million Americans experience chronic pain from arthritis or other conditions, costing billions of dollars for medical treatments, time off of work, and lost wages. Your overall quality of life can improve with proper exercise, mobility, and pain management techniques resulting in less pain with movement and at rest.
2. You Can Get Stronger When You Are Older
Research shows that improvement with strength and physical function are possible in your 60s, 70s, and even 80s and older with an appropriate exercise program. Progressive resistance training is where the muscles are exercised against resistance that gets more difficult as strength improves, and has been proven to prevent frailty.
3. You May Not Need Surgery or Drugs for Low Back Pain
About 25 percent of people in the United States report having low back pain within the last three months. Scientific evidence demonstrates that physical therapy can be an effective alternative with much less risk than surgery or long-term 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 lack of physical activity can put you at risk for diabetes. A regular, appropriate physical activity routine is one of the best ways to prevent and manage both Type I and Type II diabetes.
5. Exercise Can Help You Prevent Falls and Keep Your Independence
About one-third of people over the age of 65 and almost half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once this year. More than half of adults over 65 years old report problems with movement including walking a quarter of a mile, stooping, and standing. Exercise can improve movement and balance to reduce your risk of falls. It can also reduce your risk of hip fractures, in which 95 percent are caused by falls.
6. Your Bones Want You to Exercise
Osteoporosis or weak bones affect over half of people over age 54. Exercises that keep you on your feet like walking, jogging, or dancing help build bone density. Exercises using resistance, such as weightlifting, can help build bone strength or reduce bone loss. Whole body vibration is another way to improve bone health.
7. Your Heart Wants You to Exercise
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. One of the top ways to prevent it and other cardiovascular diseases is exercise. Research shows that even if you already have heart disease, appropriate exercise can improve your health.
8. Your Brain Wants You to Exercise
About five percent of people over the age 65 and more than 40 percent of people over the age of 80 have Alzheimer’s disease. People, who are physically active, even later in life, are much less likely to develop memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease.
9. You Don’t Have to Live with Bladder Leakage
More than 13 million women and men in the United States have bladder leakage, or urinary incontinence. There’s no need to rely on pads and rushing to the bathroom when exercises can strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.