Why do some people age well while others do not? The answer may in part lay in a person’s resiliency. Resiliency is defined as an object’s ability to return to an original form or position after being bent, compressed or stretched. When this definition is applied to a person, it gives us a clue as to why some people recover quickly after illness or injury. This more scientific definition helps us understand why resiliency is nothing more than your own margin for error in life. The greater margin for error you have, then the less likely something catastrophic will occur.
5 Strategies to Improve Your Physical Resiliency:
(1) Get Regular Activity
Humans are designed to be mobile and active. The less active we are, the unhealthier we become. Fairly recent research has shown that inactivity during the day of two hours or greater is a major predictor of early cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Staying active is not the same thing as exercise. We all need to move more. Even walking more can help to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. Increasing activity during the day is important. Your goal should be to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise.
(2) Strength Train
Maintaining strength and/or gaining in strength is a critical component to improving physical resiliency. Being stronger as well as the process of gaining that strength is protective against almost all known diseases and illnesses. It’s a basic, fundamental factor for a healthy life. Without adequate strength, you can lose independent mobility very quickly which is directly correlated with a decrease in resiliency. If you have more strength, then you’re more easily able to function in daily life. Being stronger means your body’s ability to withstand the physical stress is significantly higher. This is why strength training is a critical and indispensable component to building physical resiliency as well as mental resiliency because you teach your body and mind how to focus and overcome difficult tasks. Research on strength training is very clear. It’s safe for anyone at any age. Older muscle definitely responds well to strength training. It’s never too late to get started. If you’re nervous about adding strength training to your weekly routine, then get help from a professional. Making this one change could be the most important thing you do to insure that you maximize your body’s physical ability to age well.
(3) Maintain Mobility and Range of Motion (ROM)
A joint must go through its full ROM on a daily basis to remain healthy. Without regular full ROM, a nutrient rich and internally lubricating fluid known as synovial fluid cannot properly circulate and coat the joint surface. Over time, this will lead to stiffness, dysfunction, and joint deterioration such as arthritis. Therefore, maintaining appropriate mobility and flexibility is important for improving your resiliency.
(4) Sleep Well
Sleep quality is a critical factor of healthy living. We have numerous body processes that require adequate sleep quality in order to take place. This means that your body requires the appropriate time in each phase of sleep including REM (rapid eye movement) and deep sleep. Quality sleep is a critical driver of resiliency.
(5) Eat Healthy
What you eat and the nutrients you put in your body matters. There is ongoing controversy on what is the “best” diet. The best diet may actually be more nuanced than we know. As we learn more about human physiology and epigenetics, it appears that there are a variety of eating choices that can be very healthy. It varies from one person to the next. However, it’s very clear that in order to maintain a healthy diet, avoid the SAD diet (standard American diet). For a vast majority of people, avoiding the SAD diet by eating more fresh vegetables and healthy meat or protein portions (while avoiding processed foods and grains) is definitely a step in the right direction. One cannot maintain physical resiliency with poor nutritional intake.
In this video, I specifically and more thoroughly discuss how Physical Resiliency is a Key to Successful Aging.
In closing, we must acknowledge that resiliency in humans is not just a physical characteristic. It’s comprised of emotional (psychological), mental (cognitive), social (relationships), and spiritual characteristics. Each characteristic of human resiliency impacts the others. Understanding the interplay of the five different attributes helps in understanding a person’s true resiliency. Optimizing these five characteristics is the key to resiliency and possibly the key to aging well!
Written by: Ben Shatto
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Ben Shatto, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS. Ben is a physical therapist and Administrator for Signature Healthcare – home of House Calls, Home Health, Palliative and Hospice Care as well as the founder and editor of the website: www.thePhysicalTherapyAdvisor.com. His website is dedicated to help proactive adults of all ages to understand how to safely self-treat and manage common musculoskeletal, neurological, and mobility related conditions in a timely manner so they can reach their optimal health.
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