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While grocery shopping a couple of days ago, I saw an elderly gentleman struggling to get up from the bench just inside the doors. Asking if he needed help, I offered my hand. The gentleman got off the bench, stating, “Just a side effect of getting older I guess.”

As he moved on, I thought of the stigma behind getting older and decreased quality of life.

As an athletic trainer, I typically see young athletes in the midst of their prime. I will be the first to admit the geriatric population is not a strong suit of mine. However, I fully believe in Newton’s first law: “A body in motion will stay in motion.”

In my experience, it does not take long for athletes to become deconditioned. Scientifically, deconditioning begins 48 hours after physical activity has ceased.

When thinking of the older population, many people accept that once you reach a certain age, you will most likely need assistance. There is nothing wrong with accepting more help, especially if you do not feel safe performing an activity on your own.

However, the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” surely applies here. If you never reach your arms over your head, you most likely will lose the ability to do so. If you never practice walking upstairs, you will likely find it hard to climb a flight in the future.

If you are considered “elderly” and find daily activities hard to do, don’t panic! Simply break down the movement into its component parts.

For example, if you have a hard time walking up the stairs, try to figure out what part of this is causing the problem.

Is it the inability to raise your foot up to a certain level? In this case, you would want to strengthen your anterior leg muscles.

Is it the feeling of being off-balanced? Attempt to work on your balance through single-leg exercises and stability training.

Is it overall deconditioning? Try walking more and more each day until you no longer breathe quite as hard going up the stairs.

For professional help with day-to-day tasks, you may try physical therapy or personal training at the Sam B. Cook HealthPlex. We have a “Functional Fitness Class” that is designed to help maintain functional movements required as we mature.

Overall, the most important thing is to stay moving, and never accept that you cannot do something.

It’s time to show the “young” people just how much you can do!

Mackenzie Strother is an athletic trainer at Capital Region Medical Center. She splits her time between helping community members in the Sam B. Cook Healthplex and working in our community at sporting events, keeping young athletes safe.

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