It reached 1,000 degrees here last week. I’m exaggerating, but only by a few degrees. I don’t know why we suddenly have record breaking temps around the world, but here are a few of my theories:

  1. The earth is circling closer to the sun every year and scientists will only tell us about a minute before we plummet into its fiery depths… “Honey, why did the driveway just melt, the dog burst into flames and the front yard catch on fire and… NOOOO!”
  2. Women around the globe are all going through menopause together, creating massive, collective, hot flashes
  3. A couple in Alaska is feuding, using the thermostat as their weapon of choice for making the other person super uncomfortable

In between jumping in and out of a car hot enough to fry bacon and blasting my office fan directly on my face, I discovered something else unpleasant about the heat: It makes joints swell.

And I don’t mean “swell” like, “Gee, that’s swell!” but more like, “Why does it feel as if I have a balloon animal tied around my knee?” 

On a whim, I did a Google search and found that yes, hot weather can make joints hurt more. 

Awesome.

You’d think, logically, that heat would make joints feel better, since cold weather also makes them hurt.

The operative word in that sentence: logically.

Keeping in mind that Mother Nature created the platypus and the goblin shark, you’ll know she’s not always on board the logic train.

In fact, she likes to mess with our heads quite often. It’s also why we feel hungry when in actuality we’re thirsty. So after eating an entire meal, you realize you really just needed a glass of water, a caloric difference of about 500.

This brings me to today’s topic: old people.

As someone who routinely receives cremation brochures, let me clarify.

I don’t use the word “old” often, mainly because the older I get, the higher the qualification for this category, which currently stands at “deceased.”

Plus, I know a lot of young people who act old and people my age (59) with a young outlook and personality who you’d guess were a couple decades younger than they look.

So what’s the difference? Attitude and outlook. 

For example, people who complain a lot and love to tell you all about their latest surgical procedure usually look their age or older. I avoid these people like the bubonic plague they believe they have.

[Side note: Yes, I’m well aware I talk about issues like my knee. But it’s not to gain sympathy or complain, but get a laugh and let you know I’m not immune to my share of physical challenges. And I don’t use it as an excuse to avoid things. Unless it’s helping a friend move, then yes.]

Along with outlook, we often “expect” certain issues to occur as we age. And we let these issues determine what we do and don’t do in life.

This brings me to today’s topic du jour: things we mistakenly use as excuses to not work out and/or enjoy life in general.

Not only are they excuses, but people often feel they can’t do anything about it so why bother?

[sound of loud buzzer] Sorry, wrong answer!

Here are the top three physical attributes I see most often as “accepted” parts of aging, as in, “What do you expect at my age?”

1. Your back hurts because you have the posture of a bay shrimp

A bent-over posture is NOT a sign of normal aging (you sat up just reading this, didn’t you? J). Yes, it makes you look “old,” but accepting it as “the way it is” sets you up for a world of hurt.

In the case of women (and yes, men, too), it can be a sign of tiny spinal fractures, indicating your spinal discs are collapsing like a deck of cards — especially if accompanied by a loss of height. It can also be a sign of osteoporosis.

A less serious but just as insidious cause for a curved back can occur from hours sitting at a desk (like I’m doing as I write this…). Front/chest muscles shorten and tighten, pulling your torso forward.

Our body takes on the shape we practice all day. It’s why people in less technologically developed countries often have perfect posture. Ever notice?

This forward, rounded, position not only wreaks havoc with your spine, but increases the risk of shoulder injuries and syndromes like frozen shoulder. Here’s how to fix it:

  1. Get checked by your doctor to rule out any spinal problems or osteoporosis
  2. If s/he gives the all clear, work on stretching out your chest muscles by lying over a foam roller or stretching in a door jamb with your elbows out to your sides.
  3. Strengthen your back muscles with rows, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together – 3x/week
  4. Become aware of your posture throughout the day: your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all align

2. Your balance is worse than a drunken sailor on the high seas

A reader recently wrote to me saying she can’t do certain exercises because she has such poor balance.

Here’s the thing. If you stop doing things that challenge your balance, your balance will get worse. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, unfortunately.

When it gets worse you’re more likely to fall. When you fall you can injure yourself, often severely.

Here are a few ways to get steadier.

  1. Stand on one foot and time yourself for 10 second (stand near a stable object or wall if you’re wobbly). Switch feet. You can do this while talking on the phone, standing at the sink or while waiting for the microwave to beep.
  2. Add a wobble board or stand on a rolled up yoga mat for parts of your workout routine. Be sure to surround yourself with soft pillows or cushions if you’re starting out and be near a wall for backup.
  3. If you walk in a treadmill, avoid hanging on. If you can’t walk normally without holding on take down the speed. You don’t walk around the house holding on to things, right? So you should be able to do the same when walking on a treadmill.

If you’re unsure of yourself, hold on with one hand and gradually adjust to letting to with both hands.

3. It hurts to move so you just avoid it as much as possible

Ah, a subject near and dear to my heart… Arthritis and joint pain is a Catch-22. It may hurt a bit to get moving, but if you don’t move it will get worse.

Movement keeps joint mobile by circulating the fluid that keeps them lubed. If you stop moving, you get stiff.

So. What can you do to ease the discomfort? Here are a few tips:

  1. Schedule workouts for when you’re not as stiff. If you’re achy in the morning, wait until later in the day to exercise when your body is warmed up.
  2. Find ways to compensate. If doing an exercise in a specific way hurts your hands, find a different way to do the exercise. For example, arthritis in my left thumb makes it painful to do pushups with my palms flat on the floor so I grasp a hexagon shaped (so it doesn’t roll) dumbbell, which keeps my wrists straight and takes pressure off my thumb.
  3. Use compression gear or equipment designed for people with arthritis. I mentioned knee supports in last week’s post for painful knees. You can find support accessories for just about every joint and body part, from elbows to calves and gloves for your hands.

What about YOU? What prevents you from working out or enjoying activities and how do you adjust? Let me know in the comments below!

Other posts you may also enjoy:

3 Knee-friendly, leg toning exercises

Best functional exercises for women over 50

How to exercise when you’re hurting

By the way, have you checked out my free webinar, How to Firm Up After 50? I explain in detail why its SO important to keep up strength training after 50, both for strength as well as weight loss. Yes! weight loss. Who knew?  It’s available at a number of convenient times so register when you have about and hour to sit back and relax. 

Your Ageless Body Coach,