As we age, one of the most harmful things we can do to ourselves is to become sedentary instead of remaining active. A quick way to “test” whether you need to get up and move more is the “chair test;” see if you can get out of a chair or off the couch with ease. If you find you struggle, you may need to get up and move around more.
Another plague of aging is back pain. There are many ways in which you can injure your back but there are just as many ways in which you can maintain your back health while staying active and keeping fit.
If you’re a caregiver who is caring for elderly or aging parents you may want to discuss these back health items with them. It’s easier to fend off back pain before it starts and here are a few tips:
- Stretch and strengthen. Whether you do toe touches, place your hands on your hips and bend backwards or do deep knee bends, using your hip muscles may help prevent trip and fall accidents. Also, exercising your hips will strengthen them and help keep your back muscles strong. Try this: Stand up from a seated position without using your arms – it’s not as easy as it sounds; balance on one leg (hold onto a table or counter for balance if necessary) do this five to ten times a day switching legs; do a short squat (stand five inches from a way and squat a little, using the wall for support).
- If you spend a lot of time at home watching television or reading, you should make a note to get up and move around at least once an hour for at least five minutes. Sitting for too long is harmful to your back.
- Stand up straighter. We’ve always been told to stand up straight and walk as though we’re balancing a book on our heads; that may not be necessary but the more time you spend concentrating on your posture, the better it will become.
- Lift heavy objects, such as grandchildren, the correct way. Just as you’re not supposed to bend over and lift any heavy object from the waist, you don’t want to pick up your grandchildren that way either. Bend your hips and knees and if possible lower yourself to one knee. Lift your grandchild with both hands and then lift yourself up to a standing position. It’s always wise to life with your legs not your back.
- Relieve stress with a daily walk. Stress can wreak havoc not only on your heart and mind but on your muscles and body. Taking a walk not only gets you up and active, it helps relieve stress as well. Walking helps strengthen hips and joints and also helps with balance issues.
If you notice that Mom and Dad (or you) just aren’t getting up and moving around as much as in the past, you may want to work with them to get into a walking routine or doing short bursts of exercise such as the squats or leg balances. Regardless of whether your aging parents are active, you may want to equip their home with a medical alert system as a way to assure that while they’re going about their day they will have access to medical help if necessary. While we always hope they will be safe at home, it’s better to have the peace of mind a personal medical alert pendant offers than to wonder whether they are in need of assistance.
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