In 2018 The Lancet Global Health (The Lancet Article) reported that 27.5% of people globally do not get enough physical activity (this was from a survey size of nearly two million people).

A global physical activity target of 10% was set, but they have maintained that if current trends continue this target will not be achieved. The report stated that “policies to increase population levels of physical activity need to be prioritised and scaled up urgently”.

What are the health benefits of physical activity?

The health benefits of physical activity are well established and being mobile is one of the keys to living a life well and remaining independent.

As we get older collagen in our body starts to break down, this is a natural process, so over time it will be more difficult for joints to achieve their full range of motion. And there are also some conditions, for example, osteoarthritis that will impact our ability to move well.

If we stay active as we age, then we have a better chance of retaining our muscle strength.

Unfortunately, as we age we may decide to “take it easier”, we sit more, move less, and soon find that it is harder to reach into a cupboard for an item, you put off going up and down stairs and bending down to reach into the washing machine. For these moves, we need our shoulder joint, ankle joint, and hips and knees to stay working for us.

What movement is good to do to maintain our mobility as we age?

Firstly, stay active. A 2021 study from JAMA Network Open (Article) reported that up to 40 percent were less likely to develop mobility problems over a six-year span compared to those who were less active. Their light physical activities include walking, gardening, and drying dishes.

Secondly, find different moves to do. A combination of different activities during the week is important. Our bodies are built to do hundreds of different moves and if we keep repeating the same ones our joints won’t love us for it.

Thirdly, if you do find yourself sitting for long periods, get up and move and take a standing break, and do this frequently during the day. The Journal Of Gerontology (Article) reported in 2015 that adults who took more frequent breaks had a better physical function.

And finally, stretching and bending really helps joint mobility. These do not need to be hard stretches, but ones that are gentle and leave the body feeling good.

The popular sayings, “Use it or lose it” or “Use it and keep it” have never been truer, and it’s never too late to start.

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