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Avoiding frailty as we age

with advice from Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, RISE Physical Therapy and Yonemoto Physical Therapy

Older man sits on the floor with his left leg extended in front of him and his right leg bent behind him. He leans his weight on his left hand while reaching for his left foot with his right hand.

Getting older can be challenging — joints may grow stiff and arthritic, vision and hearing can decline, and even your memory and response to questions may not be as quick as they used to be.

As seniors slow down and move less, physical therapists recommend being aware of the “slippery slope of aging” that leads to frailty, and higher risk for injury and illness.

Sheila Yonemoto, a physical therapist and the owner Yonemoto Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in California), notes that our bodies start to lose strength at the relatively young age of 30. With each decade of life, people will lose roughly 10% of their strength, and even more (15-30% per decade) after the age of 60. Without strength training and exercise to combat such losses, seniors approaching their 70s are at a serious risk for frailty.

A study published in BMC Geriatrics noted eight factors to measure for risk of frailty:

    Older blonde woman using walker gets help from younger white woman.

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Low physical activity
  • Poor balance
  • Low gait speed
  • Visual impairment
  • Cognitive impairment

Significant increases in three or more of these factors was determined to be a sign of frailty. If you start feeling more weak and fatigued, or you notice that poor balance has caused you to slow down your gait (how you walk), these are signs to work with a physical therapist to strengthen your body and reduce fatigue, or improve your balance and gait speed, in order to have better health.

The experts at RISE Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in California, note that it doesn’t take much to return to activity if you’ve been less active. Even 5-10 minutes a day of moderate activity can help to condition your muscles and help your balance.

They suggest walking the dog, parking further away from stores when running errands, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator to start healthier habits. Or think about doing yoga while watching TV — they explain that “Stretching and posing, especially with light resistance bands, can be a terrific way to increase your mobility, agility, and strength during a time when you’d otherwise be sedentary.”

Older Black man sits on a bench and lifts weights.One of the reasons you often hear about balance and fall prevention is that poor balance puts you at high risk for a fall, which can lead to broken bones and even more inactivity. Many physical therapists, including those at Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehab, a Physiquality member in Southern California, offer fall risk screenings and programs to improve balance and reduce fall risk.

Such screenings review your medical history and general health and evaluate your gait and your balance. Once they understand how you move, PTs can determine how to improve your balance and help you walk better in order to reduce your chances for falling.

The PTs at RISE Physical Therapy remind you that it’s never too late to start exercising. Start with 5-10 minutes of activity a day and build your endurance for longer activities. It’s good for your muscles and bones, your heart, and even your mental health, particularly if you exercise with others.

Ready to talk to a physical therapist about improving your strength and reducing your risk of frailty? Find a Physiquality physical therapist near you.

 
Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehab logo
Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation is a Physiquality member clinic with three locations in Southern California. Established in 2004, Progressive PT and Rehab takes pride in personalized programs based on the latest scientific evidence, state-of-the-art treatments, equipment, and modalities.

RISE Physical Therapy logo
Physiquality member RISE Physical Therapy in the San Diego area offers one-on-one treatment for balance training and exercises, vestibular and neurological rehabilitation, elite athletic training and sports rehabilitation, and more.

Yonemoto Physical Therapy logo
Founded by Sheila Yonemoto more than 35 years ago, Yonemoto Physical Therapy is a Physiquality member in Alhambra, CA. Its staff members help clients recover in comfort and achieve whole body wellness.

For further information:

How to avoid getting frail as you get older. Cleveland Clinic, December 29, 2020.

Physical therapy guide to frailty. American Physical Therapy Association, February 19, 2020.

Physiquality.

Yonemoto, Sheila. Aging and exercise. Yonemoto Physical Therapy, November 4, 2015.

RISE Physical Therapy.

Physical therapy for seniors. Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehab.

Eklund, Kajsa et al. One-year outcome of frailty indicators and activities of daily living following the randomised controlled trial; “Continuum of care for frail older people.” BMC Geriatrics, July 22, 2013.

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The material and information contained on this Web site is for information only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or consultation.

Consult your personal physician before beginning any exercise program or self-treatment.