The world doesn’t make it easy to stay active. Many of us these days find ourselves tethered to a desk, sitting down on our commutes or just too busy to find some time to stretch exercise and get our bodies moving again. When we find ourselves static for too long, our body can begin to lock up and it can get progressively harder to get mobile and stay mobile. So it’s important we find a way to make the most out of our circumstances and develop some habits to keep us healthy, supple and mobile. In this week’s blog, I’d like to examine the benefits of staying active, and what we can do to keep moving even when the world is making it difficult.
The importance of staying mobile
Our ability to stay on the move and be active is integral to our feeling of independence and freedom according to research by the National Institute on ageing. As we get older it can become difficult to start and maintain an exercise routine. However, research has found that just one group exercise session a week can have a big impact on keeping us mobile as we get older. The younger we get into a routine of regular exercise, the easier it is to maintain and the more likely we are to stay mobile and not suffer from health complications in later life. That being said, it’s never too late to get into regular physical activity, and the benefits are enough to get even the most adamant sofa surfers off the couch.
Every day we rely on our system of joints, muscles and tendons to support our daily activities. But without proper exercise and maintenance, these body parts can become worn which can lead to discomfort when exercising or moving. The more discomfort we feel while moving the more tempting it can be to avoid physical exertion and exercise. This downward spiral and pain and lack of mobility can lead to serious health complications such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer if not addressed.
Choosing the right kind of exercise
One size doesn’t fit all with exercise, especially as we age. Research suggests that one of the most common causes of people getting less mobile with age can be injury recovery and the fear of getting mobile after an accident. It’s important to pick exercises that not only benefit specific areas of the body we want to stay healthy and mobile but also that we reduce the risk of injury whilst exercising. Take some time to find what areas of your body you would like to increase mobility in. Each part of the body can be stimulated by different exercises so recognising where you need to improve can allow you to tailor your exercise routine to you. For those who worry about injury whilst exercising, look for a low-impact exercise that gently stimulates your muscles and does not apply too much pressure on any area of the body you may be weaker in.
Where to start
When you are out of practice exercising it can be quite daunting to start a new routine. The key is starting small. Research by the NHS suggests that even one session of moderate aerobic activity a week can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease in later life. Moderate aerobic exercise does not strictly mean running or lifting weights either. Just raising your heart rate through stretching, a short brisk walk or moving around the house once or twice a day can have instant benefits. Flexibility is really important when we start an exercise routine as if our muscles, joints and tendons are not properly warmed up for exercise we are more likely to experience a sports-related injury. Take time to properly stretch and warm up each area of the body, paying extra attention to any part of your body that may be weak or vulnerable to pain. We have a blog post on the benefits of dynamic stretching, which is a great way to warm up and get ready for a workout without fear of injury or over-exertion.
Getting mobile, when life is static
With the fast pace of modern-day life, it can be hard to find time, space and energy to stay active. Many of us work jobs that require us to sit down for extended periods, or we may just struggle with being on our feet for prolonged amounts of time. Fortunately, there are exercises that we can fit into our everyday lives that can help increase flexibility, muscle strength and improve mobility. Chair exercises are great for those looking to get active who may not have time or the capacity to stand up all the time. Here are some of those chair exercises and how they can benefit you.
Chair stands – a great stretch for those looking to improve flexibility and improve muscle strength in their knees, shoulders, and core. Sit in a chair and cross your arms until you feel a pull on your chest from each side. From this point stand up by applying full force on your heels and keep your back straight. Once you stand, slowly lower yourself, maintaining a tight core and bending your knees as you do.
Heel raises – Keep your core tight, upper body tall and feet flat. Slowly raise your heels off the floor whilst squeezing your calves. Keep your feet off the ground for a few seconds before lowering them gently.
Arm circles – Keeping your core tight, extend your arms out into a T position, with a slight bend in your elbows. Circle your arms backwards for a few seconds, before taking a break. Make sure to make small gentle circles to avoid injury in your shoulders.
Leg lifts – With your back straight and core tight, lift one of your legs so it is stretched flat in front of you. Hold this position for a few seconds then swap sides. This exercise is great for improving flexibility in your calves, hips and quads.
Seated twists – From a sat-down position allow your entire torso to twist around to the left, letting your head follow naturally. Hold this position for just a moment then allow your body to untwist and return to centre. Swap sides after each stretch, and make sure not to over-twist yourself. This exercise is great for keeping your spine flexible and your core strong.
It’s so important that as we get older and life removes our time and ability to get active we try to stay as mobile as possible. However, it’s vital that whatever exercise you undertake you listen to your body and don’t push yourself to the point of potential injury. Starting small and not over-exerting yourself is important to maintaining a consistent routine and feeling the benefits of exercise without risking yourself. If you’d like to know more about exercises that are good for those who struggle with mobility feel free to check out our blog on low-impact exercise.