“Until you actually learn to fall, your nervous system will never truly know that it is actually safe to fall.” -Dr. Shante Cofield
I spend the majority of my time discussing concerns about falls with my clients, so it’s on my mind often. As a physical therapist specializing in empowering adults throughout the aging process, both the future and current risk of falls are the number one concern each of my clients express. And to guide them through this process, I have to help them analyze both the physical and psychological risk factors. Because they both play a major role.
Another one of my roles is to help all adults adopt forms of physical activity and exercise they enjoy. We’ve all heard the health benefits of physical activity, which are created by exposing ourselves to controlled stress. And this defines the actual purpose of exercise, or putting yourself in any uncomfortable situation. To allow your body to adapt by exposing yourself to...
“He or she who has the greatest capacity for discomfort rises the fastest.” -Brene Brown
I’m currently about 6 months pregnant, which is the phase of pregnancy where almost every movement starts to become uncomfortable and more challenging by the day. There are moments where it’s tempting to allow myself to seek comfort where I can. But I know making the choice to continue to move even when it isn’t an easy choice will lead to a more comfortable final few months of pregnancy and recovery post-partum.
So what does this look like?
Choosing to sit on the floor instead of curling up on the couch. Squatting to pick something up instead of bending over. Walking and taking the stairs as much as possible. Instead of looking at my ever-changing body as an inconvenience, I can see it as an opportunity for strengthening and being creative in adapting my movement.
While it sounds silly to make these small choices, they make a huge difference over time. And...
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.
The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed from an infection.
Bill Gifford decided do a little investigating of his own. Why do we all age so differently? Is there a way to predict how we will...
It's a great time to start to talk about health goal-setting for the new year. So I'm here to share the 5 step process I use to set my annual goals.
Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of traditional New Year's resolutions. They set most of us up for failure and we have a bad habit of using them to shame ourselves. If this sounds like you, read on to learn what to do instead. I'll be sharing what I do to start the new year off right and reach my biggest goals.
I recommend setting aside 30 minutes to an hour to think this through and write it down on paper. Continue to review these monthly throughout the year using a shortened version of what we're doing today.
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of goal-setting is to start off by listing off what you did well over the last year. This way you don't start the process of goal setting off by shaming yourself or thinking that you need...
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who admitted he felt that everything had gone wrong for him his whole life. Granted, he was having a difficult week and it was overshadowing everything in his life. It was all doom and gloom, and as I was listening I realized he wasn’t looking at his life through the right lens.
When I asked him to list at least one thing that had gone well for him, he was at a loss. He said there wasn’t anything he could think of. So I pointed out that he was happily married, with two healthy young children, and had recently moved into a new home his family loved. He sat there quietly for a moment and I saw his demeanor change instantly. The reality set in that he would never be happy with anything he accomplished in his life if he hadn’t been able to acknowledge the things he was grateful for first.
It’s likely you’ve already heard about the benefits of a gratitude practice. Research has found that people with a regular...
The other day I was browsing through the comments in a Facebook group of women over the age of 50 discussing fitness. One caught my eye, and it’s not because it was the first time I had read the sentiment being expressed.
It was a woman frustrated with the amount of conflicting information coming at her from the diet and fitness industry. She couldn't decide where to start. Keto or intermittent fasting? Should I buy books on these approaches? What are macros? What fitness program should I follow? CrossFit or Orange Theory?
The underlying issue was too much information to make a decision. The overwhelm in her plea was clear. And within the comment, she also mentioned feeling the need to purchase a bunch of equipment and supplements before she could even get started.
And therein lies the problem. Our lack of health isn't due to a lack of information. Instead, information overwhelm leads us down a path of not taking action. And that is the most dangerous path of all.
Does your balance seem to keep getting worse no matter what you do? Never feel like you’re making meaningful progress?
If so, you aren’t alone. The inability to both set realistic health goals, especially for balance issues and reach them is one of the most common concerns I hear from my clients at their first therapy visit. And as I get to know them, it’s clear why this is a recurring theme in their lives.
Many of us develop the bad habit of holding on to self-limiting beliefs, as Gay Hendricks does an excellent job of highlighting in The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level. These subconscious mindsets have the potential to limit all areas of our lives and are even more dangerous when we don’t realize we are holding onto them. And you may not realize how often your own hidden beliefs are dictating your life.
Let’s take a closer look at how you’re limiting yourself with your health goals, and what you can do...
Working on your balance doesn’t need to involve any fancy equipment and can be as simple as putting a 2x4 on a stack of books or yoga blocks to create a simple beam! Or if you aren’t so confident with your balance, try the 2x4 on the floor by itself first. Then give these 3 moves a try:
Pelvic listing on the beam is a great way to work on single leg standing and get your lateral hip muscles doing their job again. Stand on he beam on one foot and focus on pulling your hip inward to keep it stacked above your ankle.
Heel-to-toe standing and walking on the beam. If you have to move quickly along the beam it’s an indicator you don’t have good balance control. The slower you move here the better.
And the trickiest one for me: walking sideways along the beam. Try it both directions!
Some tips to get more out of your balance work:
Try this in front of a mirror for feedback and motor learning. This helps integrate your brain and your body.
Try your balance...
In my years as a physical therapist and restorative exercise specialist helping adults age well, I’ve realized aging well has more to do with mindset than any lack of knowledge of health. The adults I encounter who age well both view aging as a positive experience and maintain a strong mind-body connection as they age. The clients I’ve worked with have inspired me to do a lot of research over the years on healthy aging and these quotes have all inspired me along the way. I hope they do the same for you.
“Becoming an Old Person in Training makes it easier to think critically about what age means in this society and the forces at work behind depictions of older people as useless and pathetic. Shame can damage self-esteem and quality of life as much as externally imposed stereotyping. Becoming an Old Person in Training is a political act, because it derails this shame and self-loathing. It undoes the “otherness” that powers ageism (and...
Wanting to gain some strength while improving your floor mobility? Try out these 3 simple but powerful floor mobility drills. A few things to keep in mind as you try these:
You’ll get more out of them if you move as slow as you possibly can. I mean painfully slow.
If you only get part of the way through the motion and find yourself plopping back on the floor, grab a few bolsters like a cushion to raise the level of the surface you're sitting on. Bolstering means meeting your body where it’s currently at and allowing you to work within your given range.
This is an example of taking a bigger movement like floor transfers and breaking that movement down into smaller pieces to improve your technique and expand your options. You can do this with any skill, it’s super fun!