Think about the last time you stood up from your chair or sofa — did you have to use your hands?
Most Americans over the age of 65 usually need the extra stabilization and assistance from their hands, and many aren’t sure when they first became dependent on using their hands to push out of a chair. Though there isn’t a specific name for this condition, it’s sometimes associated with osteoarthritis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and this is one of many conditions related to movement that tend to be more frequent as people age.
Luckily, there are preventative measures you can take to keep your body in its best, healthiest shape. And for those who are unable to do things with their body that they once could, physical therapy could be a great solution to get them back to where they were, according to Nicholas Durst, Physical Therapist at Prowers Medical Center. Physical therapists can help you develop your muscles for strength and mobility as you get older.
“When you say ‘physical therapy,’ a lot of people imagine they’re going to be doing exercises or stretches that make them hurt even more,” Durst explained. “Our goal is to help people hurt less and to help people get back to doing the activities they love that their pain was keeping them from doing.”
For example, from the condition described earlier, a simple, at-home “chair test” can help you determine if the key muscles in your legs are deconditioning. Set a timer for 30 seconds, then stand up and sit down from a chair repeatedly. The average, healthy woman between the age of 65 and 69 can stand 11 to 16 times in that time frame, and her male counterpart can stand 12 to 17 times. Those who are unable to hit these number ranges are at a significantly higher risk of falling than their cohorts, according to Durst.
Standing up repeatedly from a chair, or standing without using your hands for help, are gold-standard measures used by healthcare providers throughout North America to assess a person’s leg strength and fall risk. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) collects this data to provide an understanding of health risks that exist in adults.
“When you stand, you engage the large muscle groups in your thighs and hips that are responsible for helping you to walk the right way and lift heavy objects correctly,” Durst explained.
It’s key to seek help from a physical therapist to build those leg muscles again before it becomes unsafe to get out of a chair alone. The same goes for those who might be experiencing a different issue with their bodies, whether that’s shortness of breath after a 30-minute walk with your friends when you used to walk for an hour, or back or shoulder pain from lifting your grandchildren when you used to be able to do so with ease. Simply put: if you’re hurt or if you’re not doing something with your body that you used to do, look into visiting with a physical therapist, Durst said.
“A lot of people get wrapped up in the idea that since they’re getting older, their body isn’t supposed to work the same anymore,” Durst explained. “But great research supports the fact that we can build muscle or improve strength at the same rate throughout our life. So, our joints might deteriorate, and our reflexes might slow down — that’s scientific — but our ability to build strength doesn’t change.”
The reason our bodies do find it more difficult to do things as we age is a function of being less active, not actually a function of age, Durst said. That’s why there are 70-year-olds who can still run marathons; though we can’t all relate to these types of people, we can relate to the idea that we need to continue staying active, especially since we tend to become more sedentary as we age, he explained.
Some gold standard recommendations to keep your body in tip-top shape as you age include getting 10,000 steps a day, not sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time and not more than 8 hours a day, and getting 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. If that feels overwhelming, Durst suggests starting with what feels comfortable for you and building on that.
The rehabilitation team at Prowers Medical Center has various modalities to help with pain, including electrical stimulation, dry needling and ultrasounds. Staff can employ different types of exercise techniques that are specifically tailored to individuals, and they also implement modalities that can be used to help individuals exercise without putting excess strain on painful joints, such as blood flow restriction therapy.
“We have several ways to help people, no matter their age or how they’re feeling,” Durst concluded. “We can always find a way to get you moving in the right way so you start seeing the improvement you need to improve your current quality of life.”
For more information about the physical therapy services at Prowers Medical Center, or to schedule an appointment, call (719) 336-6728 or go to www.prowersmedical.com.