The Three Keys to Maintaining an Active Lifestyle as You Age

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Just because you’re going to age doesn’t mean you have to be okay with aches, pains and giving up the activities you love! PT Kevin Capata shares how you can stay active and keep doing what you love as you grow older.


BY KEVIN CAPATA, DPT, RAUSCH PHYSICAL THERAPY
 
 

Every time I hear, “Don’t ever get old! It’s terrible!” I can’t help but think, “That’s a mindset problem.” Granted, I’m only 28 years old, but I compete in IRONMAN events and I can guarantee that the 75-year-old finisher would agree with me.

The truth is we are all human beings, which means we are ALL going to age, get weaker, have more aches and pains, and just generally slow down. It is hard to accept, but once you do you set yourself up for success to keep doing what you love as you age.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard a patient say their doctor has told them to stop running or doing stair repeats at their favorite beach, but that it is exactly those things that keep them motivated through their day with a smile on their face. In these cases, I say, “Forget what the Doc said! Let’s figure out a way to manage whatever your limiting factor may be so you can keep at it!”

Whatever your age, here are three ways you can manage your aches, pains, dysfunctions or diagnoses better so you can maintain or improve your quality of life for years to come.
 

#1 – Develop a Movement Practice

To be able to continue enjoying your favorite activities, such as running, surfing, hiking, Yoga, etc., STOP DOING NOTHING when you are not participating in those activities!

It has become all too common to sit on our butts all day long, often behind some sort of screen. Most people sit in front of their computer at work for eight hours, then they go home and sit on their butt to eat dinner, only to then go sit on their butt to watch TV while scrolling mindlessly away on their phone (that’s TWO screens at the same time!) I have now addressed this problem in nearly every article I have written, and the solution comes down to the same two answers every time: effort and good habits.

Start to become aware of how often you maintain one position throughout the day, and change it as often as possible. There are so many easy ways you can do this, such as:

  • Setting an alarm every 10 minutes at work to get up or just change your position
  • Taking the cushions off your couch and putting them on the ground to remind you to lay on the floor and stretch or use your foam roller
  • Requesting a high-top table at your favorite restaurant so you’re not sitting in the exact same type of chair as you did at work all day

 
They seem so simple, but these small changes can have drastic long-term effects in the way you move and feel. Stay dedicated to your movement practice, and one day YOU can be that badass 80 year old you see every weekend charging up the local trails while smiling ear to ear.

#2 – Go to Sleep!

We all know how important it is for our health and well-being to get enough sleep on a regular basis—so why don’t people do it? It even seems to be a common theme amongst my patients (who are already in pain to begin with) to sacrifice sleep for almost anything and everything else.

It blows my mind that people can view the fact that they only get four to five hours of sleep per night as a sign that they are extra productive or working harder than everyone else. If this sounds like you, read 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep is Important, then try to still justify your lack of sleep as anything positive.

To start making some positive changes towards the quality of sleep you are getting, try these suggestions:

  1. Stop using/looking at electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. Yes, it is possible! Instead, read a book, listen to relaxing music while you stretch or foam roll, or even try out that lost art form of talking to your loved ones.
  2. No bright lights at least 30 minutes before bed.
  3. Take the TV out of the bedroom! It does NOT belong in there (for more than one reason…)
  4. Go to bed/wake up around the same time every night/morning. Our bodies adapt to a specific circadian rhythm—use this to your advantage!
  5. Get at least seven hours each night… MINIMUM!

 
Just as developing a movement practice requires a change in mindset, so does making sure you get adequate sleep. It might be hard when you start off (especially that whole no-phone-before-bed thing) but future-you will thank you.
 

#3 – Reduce Your Daily Stressors

Let’s say you have had nagging neck pain ever since you strained it while playing a game of pickup basketball with your coworkers, but it has been two weeks, and it seems like it is finally starting to feel better. Then, all in one week, your boss drops three huge deadlines on you, you get a speeding ticket rushing to pick up the kids from school, and, oh yeah, your mother-in-law is in town staying at your house. All of a sudden, your neck pain has come roaring back with a vengeance! You have not done anything from a musculoskeletal perspective to cause an increase in dysfunction or strain, but nevertheless the pain is as worse than ever. Why?

It has been proven that excessive stress can have serious short and long-term effects on both your mental and physical health. Health magazine lists 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health and states about 70% of doctor visits and 80% of serious illnesses may be exacerbated or linked to stress.

Just like all human beings age, all human beings stress. Stress can be beneficial, such as when it activates your “fight or flight” response say if for some reason you are getting chased down by a mountain lion on a trail run. However, daily psychological stress can hurt your health. Once again, it is your mindset that can really make a big difference in how you manage and reduce the impact of daily stressors on your life. One of my favorite quotes is by Marcus Aurelius, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.”

Here are two quick ways you can rest your mindset to reduce stress on a daily basis:

  1. Start some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice. This can be as easy as setting aside five minutes of your day to find a quiet environment, close your eyes, and take in some full and deep belly breaths.
  2. STOP and check your stress. When feeling overwhelmed, anxious or worried about a task, STOP and ask yourself, “Will stressing about this help me get things done better, quicker, more efficiently or effectively?” If the answer is no, reset your mindset and make a plan to just get it done.

 
Following my advice above (develop a movement practice and get adequate sleep) will also help reduce stress, all of which will help you remain active and lively til the end!
 

Conclusion

By following these three simple guidelines, you can get on track towards developing the habits, tools, and mindset necessary to enjoy an active, fun, and healthy lifestyle at every age. Honestly, with the way our nation’s healthcare has been going these days, it is now more important than ever that you take full control of your own health and well-being to ensure you’re not just living, but living well.

If you need help getting started, come in to Rausch Physical Therapy and meet with me or one of our other physical therapists. We are one of the few people whose entire job is to be your wellness coordinator and keep you on track to not only help you get healthy, but stay healthy—for life!
 


K2Kevin Capata, PT, DPT, CSCS is a licensed physical therapist at Rausch Physical Therapy & Sports Performance. After receiving his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Columbia University, Kevin started his career at Rausch PT, where he used to work as a physical therapy aide. Now, Kevin enjoys helping his patients recognize and fix movement faults to help them overcome their injury or pain, as well as empowering them with the knowledge and tools to prevent re-injury or potential new injuries.

Click to learn more about Kevin and our other physical therapists »

 
 

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