Note- The image above is of Wu Tunan, a Chinese Tai Chi Master who lived to 105 and still trained daily up until the end of his life. 
Why is it that we typically connect ageing with a devasting loss of mobility, with stiff joints and with short shuffles from one chair to the next?
Is this what we should expect from the ageing process and father time, that our mobility will be gradually stolen away from us, or are there other options?
Fundamentally, I believe that there are interventions that can keep us mobile and supple into our advanced age and here I outline two tactics that could help keep you mobile in the “marathon” that is life.

1) Challenge your cultural assumptions about age and mobility

In the West, it is culturally accepted that old age means pain, stiffness and immobility. However, just because it is assumed does not make it true.

A cultural assumption of age and mobility in the UK might look something like this:
“There is no escape from the ageing process, and once it starts, joint pain and immobility are a matter of course because this is what I’ve observed from watching people age”

I want to start by saying that cultural assumptions are not necessarily bad. An assumption to get an education for example is a pretty solid idea. However, sometimes they are so powerful and so ingrained in a culture that many people mistake them for an un changeable reality. You might not be aware of the cultural assumptions you are living out until you get out of your own culture and have a look at some others.

Let’s look at another culture’s assumptions about old age and mobility.

In China, age is still respected and many older people relish their retirement. They take it as a chance to pop down to the park, meet friends, and engage in a wide variety of health promoting exercises that keep them mobile, like:

  • Gymnastics
  • Jump rope
  • Walking
  • Playing music
  • Dancing
  • Qigong
  • Tai Chi (Chuan) and other martial arts

There are SO many examples of old people with great levels of strength, agility and mobility in China that it poses a direct challenge to the assumption of “old age = pain and stiffness”

A Chinese assumption of age and mobility might look something like this:
“Old age means I have more time to enjoy movement disciplines that keep me healthy and mobile. Some of the most mobile people I’ve ever seen are advanced in age”

You can watch to see what I mean:

One of the Chinese cutural secrets to these highly mobile older people is that they keep moving in a sustainable way.

There is an important point here.
The Chinese typically choose exercises that they can keep doing for many decades and they regulate the intensity of the exercise.
When you see senior people doing Gymnastics in Asia, rather than “intense cross-fit sessions” or “elaborate tumbling routines” which could expose them to injury, they do leg raises, brachiation and pull ups, stuff that is manageable.
There are cultures where age is celebrated and where old age is a golden chance to choose great activities that keep you supple and mobile. Let’s learn from those cultures.

My Top Tip

Investigate and challenge your thoughts and biases on ageing and the loss of mobility. Specifically, I suggest  following my lead and checking out those Eastern cultures that have positive ideas and results regarding ageing and the maintenance of vitality and  mobility.

2) Regain your fundamental movement patterns

The human body has evolved to make basic movement patterns that were essential for our survival. We were born with these mobility patterns ingrained, we enjoyed them as children. Most of us though lost these patterns due to a sedentary lifestyle.

You don’t use it, you lose it.
The loss of our mobility often happens so subtly that most people are completely unaware of when it began to degra.
There is hope though. I have been stunned with some of my clients ability to re-discover movement patterns. Sometimes in as little as a few hours clients over 60 are smiling as they squat effortlessly, perform overhead extensions and sit on the floor pain free.
For them, it is utterly liberating to re-discover these long lost and essential movements.

So what are the essential patterns of human movement that we should aim to maintain?

Although some people categorise them differently, they typically look something like this:
A Squat

  • A Hinge
  • A Horizontal Push and Pull
  • A Vertical Push and Pull
  • A Spine that flexes forward/back and side to side
  • A Spine that twists
  • A Lunge

Now of course, there are other movements and skills that can make you mobile. These are just the basics that if done right will keep you mobile into advanced age.
When you hear terms like “Squat” and “Push and Pull” you may associate the names of these movements with lifting weights. I’ll be the first to say that  you don’t  need weights in the performance of any of these movements for them to be effective in increasing mobility.

There are effective methods for regaining these fundamental patterns

If you can perform all of these movements with a reasonably good range of motion then you are in good “mobility” shape. If not, no need to feel discouraged because you can learn to regain these movements through proper training; and once you regain these patterns you can greatly improve your sense of wellbeing and quality of life.
Regarding regaining and maintaining mobility and vitality, I consider Qigong and Tai Chi to be two of the most effective disciplines, and I have integrated them into my Infinite Flow Approach (IFA). I have found that they encompass most, if not all of these fundamental movement patterns.
With that in mind it’s not surprising that those who continue to practice and train with these methods well into advanced age typically have exceptional mobility and vitality.

My Top Tip

I suggest you seriously investigate learning those proven methods that can help you regain and maintain these fundamental movement patterns. However, I do not recommend that you do too much on your own until you have been guided in person by an experienced and qualified teacher.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about IFA and how it can help you, I want to let you know that I offer Qigong Regaining Mobility Workshops several times a year, as well as work one-on-one with clients that prefer individualized learning. 
Send me a message to learn more here:
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