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As we age, it is normal for our body functions to gradually decline. The normal aging process is a natural and inevitable part of life. It involves a series of physical, psychological, and social changes that occur as people grow older. Even though there is a natural decline, there are things you can do to keep your body and mind active throughout your life, and even make gains in strength, bone density, and joint health through regular exercise and lifestyle modifications.

Here are 5 things I frequently run into as a Physical Therapist that my clients are surprised they can no longer do.

Balance on One Leg

Balance is essential in fall prevention. Many people are surprised they can no longer safely balance on one leg without hand support. If you cannot stand longer than 5 seconds on one leg, your risk of falling is substantially increased. In the clinic, I typically recommend someone use an assistive device if they can no longer balance safely for at least 5 seconds.

Read more about what makes someone a risk for falls

Stand from a Chair Without Using Hands

Standing up from a chair is a normal activity typically done many times throughout the day. Being able to stand up from a variety of surfaces without using your hands is a good skill to maintain.

Test yourself. Sit in a firm chair and see if you can stand up when you cross your arms across your chest. If you can’t, you can try out some simple exercises to build strength to be able to do this.

Lay on Your Stomach

Just as every baby is given tummy time, adults should enjoy some tummy time every now and then. Many of our daily activities such as sitting, driving, reading, and looking at our phones cause us to bend forward. This posture tightens select muscles in the front of our bodies and weakens others in our back. Being able to reverse and stretch out is important to our overall function.

You can see some older adults who cannot stand up straight due to a curve in their back. While some of this is just poor posture and can be reversed through exercise and stretching, some physical changes in the bone structure or other disease processes can occur which can cause someone to be unable to straighten up fully again.

Obviously, there are some medical reasons that laying on your stomach would be advised against, but this is a good general rule of thumb for most people.

Get up off the Ground

We’ve all heard the commercial “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. This is a very real and serious problem for many older adults. If someone falls, aside from any potential injury that can occur, it’s important to have strategies to help get up off the ground, and it’s a great thing to practice to keep up your mobility and help with safety.

Pick Something Up Off the Ground

Picking something up off the ground is another vital daily task that everyone should be able to do safely. Reachers have been designed to assist with this task which is very helpful, but it’s also important that you maintain mobility and balance to be able to perform this task safely to prevent falls.

How many of these tasks are you able to do? If there is something you find difficult, work with a physical therapist or other healthcare professional to try to regain your activity to improve your health and well-being.

It’s worth noting that anyone with specific medical conditions or mobility challenges should work with healthcare professionals or physical therapists to develop personalized exercise and mobility plans. Overall, the goal is to support aging adults in remaining active, mobile, and independent for as long as possible. Promoting their physical and emotional well-being.