For many of us, our various aches and pains regularly remind us that we’re not as young as we once were, but there is no physiological reason why we inevitably lose mobility, strength and muscle mass as we age.  There are issues like bone density and brittleness that tend to increase as we get older, but the main reason why older people tend to become less mobile is that we become more sedentary, move around less, and generally expect less of our bodies. It can feel like a downward spiral of symptoms, telling us that it hurts too much to exercise, even though we know that the result will be decreased mobility. And most of us have added weight to our frames as we’ve aged, putting extra strain on our joints, muscles, heart and lungs.

The good news is that it’s never too late to keep our bodies in motion.

Cynthia Brown and Kellie Flood, from the University of Alabama’s Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care, recently conducted a clinical review of academic papers dealing with mobility issues in an aging population. “Mobility limitations are often the edge of a slippery slope that leads to loss of function,” they say. “A decline in mobility can quickly lead to an across-the-board decline, including the routine activities of daily living. Mobility is a barometer for how well an older person ages.” This doesn’t negate the fact that a lot of us have real mobility issues that we need to find ways of living with; it simply means that we should not assume, as many younger people seem to believe, that age is inevitably accompanied by physical decline.

It’s not a surprise that keeping our mobility is one of the cornerstones of healthy and joyful aging. Once we start to lose our ability to walk, climb, lift, twist and bend, we start to lose our independence and our freedom. Yes, getting older can make it harder to keep moving, especially if we have bodies that simply won’t do what we’d like them to. But these days there are many practical ways you can stay active, from keep fit and yoga classes to zippy mobility scooters. Everyday activities like gardening, shopping and exploring your local area on foot are a great starting place, especially if you have friends to do them with. We can all find ways to add more movement to our lives.