Meet Bill. Bill is my friend and former patient who is 90 years old. He was married for 65 years, had a successful sales career, and has seen more change than most of us can fathom. He’s still driving, able to walk without an assistive device, can get up from the ground, and even golf occasionally!

 

Bill wasn’t always this mobile, though. Bill had a couple falls a while back, had some weakness in his legs, and was fearful of even walking around his house. Bill’s story probably doesn’t sound too unfamiliar.

 

Our populations are aging and the side effects of old age are becoming more and more evident.  Whether it’s osteoporosis, sarcopenia, fall risk, or fear of movement, many of us encounter the impact of aging on a daily basis. I certainly do working as a home health physical therapist.

 

Yet, I don’t want to focus on what can happen when we age. I want to focus on what you can do to ensure you #AgeWell. Bill is a testimony to this and the fact we all can influence how we age.

 

Aging well is not easy, though. Aging well takes work, commitment, and discomfort.

 

Discomfort?” Yes, discomfort.

 

We need to become comfortable with discomfort. Your body likes it. It’s made for it. In Nassim Taleb’s book, Antifragile, he talks about the concept of antifragility — our ability to make gains from disorder, stress, discomfort. Our bodies undergo stress and make adaptations to be able to withstand that stress in the future. This principle is often emphasized with athletes and their training, but it’s also applicable for older adults (and all of us) in pursuit of aging well.

 

So what was uncomfortable about Bill’s journey to getting back up on his feet? Lifting weights.  Bill lifted heavy things, particularly kettlebells. The kettlebell, AKA “The Handheld Gym,” is the tool that helps elite athletes improve performance as well as helped Bill (and countless other older adults) gain back independence and a full life.

 

This is scary for many people, though.

Older adults lifting heavy things!? That’s asking for injury and a visit to the hospital!

 

I beg to differ. Lifting weights doesn’t hurt people. People hurt themselves.image-2

 

This is where a physical therapist can be very helpful. As a physical therapist, we have extensive training and experience in how the body ages. We learn what the body can handle.  We can determine how much discomfort you need to undergo to make positive adaptations to offset the side effects of aging.

 

So how did Bill use kettlebells to get back on his feet?

He first worked on the quality of his movement. He learned fundamental movements that humans need to be able to do. He learned how to get up out of a chair (squatting), how to pick something off of the ground (deadlifting), and how to stand with good posture.

As Bill was able to do those things, he started to add some weight. He started very light and worked his way up each session in a very slow manner to ensure he did not suffer any harm.

In between our sessions, he would work on different activities to ensure consistent progress.

After 8 weeks of physical therapy, Bill was doing great and was able to continue therapy on his own with a home program.

If you can relate to Bill, or know someone like Bill, I encourage you to consider lifting heavy things. Seek out the help of a physical therapist that can guide you with your technique and proper progression. A physical therapist will ensure that you make appropriate progressions while ensuring you don’t suffer harm.

It will take time to make gains, but I promise the discomfort will be well worth your efforts in your pursuit to #AgeWell.

image-3Meet Dustin Jones

Dustin Jones, PT, DPT, CSCS, RKC is a home health physical therapist working in Columbus, Ohio. He has a background in sports and orthopedics, but now works with older adults to improve their physical abilities.