28 JunMobility and Movement

Retaining mobility moving into older age is fundamental to active aging and it is closely linked to health status and quality of life. While it is widely accepted how important mobility is in older adults, it is often poorly understood. Mobility can be defined as “the ability for a joint to actively move through a range of motion”, as compared to flexibility which can be defined as “the ability of a muscle to lengthen passively through a range of motion.” So in effect, mobility takes into account multiple structures such as joints, joint capsule, muscles and the motor control from the nervous system needed to handle movement. Therefore, when we are training for mobility we must take into account all of these different structures.

When it comes to mobility, research has shown that age-related loss of mobility is rather joint-specific with the shoulders and trunk being the two that experienced the greatest decline of mobility. This is compared to elbow and knee mobility which was better preserved throughout aging [1]. The importance of maintaining mobility through these joints is essential, as the decline of walking speed with age can lead to a decreased ability to negotiate stairs and decreased lower limb strength. All of which are associated with an increased risk of falls, ongoing disability and admission into residential aged care [2]. So how can you decrease the risks associated with declining mobility? Exercise.

A study found that as little as an hour a week of specific mobility and balance training alongside a home based exercise program saw improvements in mobility, functional and static balance [3]. This was further supported by another study which found exercise programs significantly improve mobility and balance in those with balance problems while also improving confidence and quality of life [4]. To ensure that you receive the best care and exercise to help improve your mobility, contact your local Exercise Physiologist to learn how they can help you.

Matthew Byrne – Exercise Physiologist

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