Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Protect Your Mobility to Protect Your Independence

Contact: Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist
Headquartered in Greene County
Tel: (417) 881-8909
E-mail: duitsmanp@missouri.edu

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Older age, less physical activity, reduced strength and balance, obesity, and chronic diseases are all common risk factors that lead to loss of mobility. Losing mobility with age has profound consequences on physical, social and psychological health.

“Once mobility is lost, independence is often lost. The feeling of isolation can be overwhelming, and often physical and emotional health plummet,” said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist, University of Missouri Extension. “The good news is that the evidence is strong that we can head off immobility and perhaps avoid it altogether with certain strategies.”

Duitsman suggests getting your mobility checked. “Your physician can assess your balance and movement by a few simple tests.  If you have difficulty climbing up ten steps or walking a quarter mile, your mobility may be impaired,” said Duitsman.


Research shows that older adults who walk and do basic strengthening exercises on a daily basis are less likely to become physically disabled compared to those who do not regularly exercise.

“Elderly people who maintain their physical fitness are more likely to live independently longer,” said Duitsman.

Structured exercise programs designed for older adults can result in significant health benefits. Such programs have been shown to improve balance, strength, energy, flexibility, sleep and mood; as well as blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Walking can also be a great benefit.

“Start by walking as far as you can, and increase this as you are able.  Research shows if older adults walk more, like 30 minutes three days a week, the beneficial effects on the brain as well as physical health can be significant.  The 30 minutes can be broken down however needed.  Even 5-minutes six times a day is beneficial,” said Duitsman.


Here are the most successful strategies that have been proven to work:
Commit yourself.  Decide that incorporating more physical activity is worth it. Then, make an action plan each week that includes different and interesting activities that you love.  “Commit to doing an action plan, and follow through for at least six weeks,” said Duitsman.

Enlist social support.  “Studies show that we are dramatically more successful at increasing physical activity when we have others to share the experience with, and to help encourage us,” said Duitsman.  Join a class or increase physical activity with an interested neighbor, family member or co-worker.

Keep notes.  “It can be effective to write down your plan for the week, and what you accomplished each day and what got in the way. This can be helpful in overcoming barriers and achieving your goals,” said Duitsman.

Reminders of what activity you have planned. Set your alarm, or your phone, to remind you.

Modify your plan when needed.  An all-or-nothing approach leads to failure.  Adjust plans when needed, and stay motivated by doing many activities that you enjoy.  “Try some dance steps, garden, walk the dog.  When the weather is bad outdoors use activity or walking DVDs inside,” said Duitsman.

Reward yourself.  Duitsman says it is important for the reward to be something you enjoy, but that is not detrimental to health.  For instance, a dessert would not make sense as a reward but a bubble bath, manicure, fishing trip, a new book or magazine might be an encouragement.

“Incorporating more physical activity each day can be enjoyable. You will begin to feel the rewards within the first couple weeks,” said Duitsman.

For more information on nutrition contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.


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