When is the last time you found yourself on the ground or household floor? For some, it may have been yesterday at work or today playing with the kids. Others may say 6 months, 2 years, or greater than a decade ago since they last found themselves in this position. 

Maintaining the ability to complete this movement skill should be at the top of your list if you wish to remain living independently in your home as you age. Take a moment to visualize the physical requirements of transferring yourself from standing, to laying down on the floor, and back into standing. What a battle against gravity! 

We all may take slightly different approaches, but there is no doubt that all major muscle groups of the upper/lower extremities and trunk were necessary for most of us. Not to mention the cardiovascular and nervous system demands either! Just like any movement skill, this task is easier for some more than others. 

Why is this skill important? Directly speaking, there are numerous daily activities that require us to get on and off the floor or ground including yard work, cleaning, playing with children or pets, and competing in recreational sports among other tasks. Indirectly speaking, if someone is unable to get on and off the floor it is quite likely that they may have current or future difficulty with lower level activities. This list includes more routine tasks such as standing up from chairs, using stairs, walking, and getting in/out of bed among other tasks. If you can maintain the ability to successfully get yourself up and down from the floor you are setting yourself up for success as you age due to the physical demands and carryover to lower level tasks. 

Some may say this thinking is a stretch or inaccurate, but we can all agree and likely relate to the statement “use it or lose it” and this is no different. Once a person stops doing an activity, it is much harder to try and start up again. A quick example of this is the high school or college athlete who stops running, jumping, and lifting weights. 20 years later this same person tries to pick up these activities again and they are nowhere near their former self. “I’m just getting old” is a common excuse, but what is aging? Aging is gradual de-conditioning over time. If you don’t challenge your body’s systems they will get weak. Yes, there are physiological changes that will happen no matter what with aging, but that does not mean these changes cannot be slowed down drastically. 

So, what is the trick to slowing down aging? You guessed it. Do those strenuous daily activities that make life harder such as getting on and off the floor. Make a routine of physically challenging yourself daily or at least weekly to prevent losing your movement skills and to be self sufficient as you age. 

Go sprint, jump, jog, use the stairs, go for a long walk, complete that tedious yard work, or do any other activity that makes you tired. Make your life a little bit harder today instead of accepting defeat with “getting old,” so that you can thrive as you age. Yes, I am talking to young adults in their 20s as well!

Don’t stop getting on and off the floor because once you stop doing this, what movement skill will you lose next? 

I hope this article highlighted the importance of literally being able to get on and off the floor, but also the big picture message regarding preventing physical decline. If you find yourself being physically limited by pain or a medical condition please seek out help from your physician and/or one of the fantastic therapy professionals in the area.

Nik Mattson, PT, DPT, is with Benedictine Living Communities.

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