Longtime Spokane chiropractor Kelli Pearson gets frustrated if she sees people who have aged early with bent-over postures and an inability to move well. That’s because she knows a few minutes of daily moves can change the equation for many well past age 60.
In fact, Pearson believes it’s not too late to reset the aging clock, so she wrote a newly released book, “Eight Minutes to Ageless: The Manual on Maturing That You’ve Never Read – But It’s Not Too Late.”
Working for nearly 40 years in her profession, she sees patients at Pearson and Weary Pain Relief Clinic in Spokane Valley. The multidisciplinary practice has chiropractors, movement and massage therapists and a nutritional coach.
“As I’ve been doing this work and my patients have been aging along with me, I’ve seen this huge need for giving them the basics of what they can do every single day so they don’t end up saying to me, ‘Kelli, aging is so horrible, don’t age.’ I’m 63 and have no pain, and I’m standing erect.
“So much of what I see in my office are people who have stopped moving at all. They have it in their heads that it’s too hard. They’ve got to work out. People will say, ‘My doctor says it’s just aging,’ but I have plenty of 80- or 90-year-olds who move beautifully. I think it’s critical to recognize if we do a little bit of the right thing every day, your future looks so much brighter.”
Her book outlines wellness tips and a short daily routine for the muscular system and ligaments.
Pearson said the moves in the book take 4 minutes in the morning and 4 minutes before bedtime. They’re designed to help people remain more erect in their posture, reduce or remove pain and keep the ability to do things like a squat or lift up luggage into bins.
She said topics break down the body’s different tissues.
“Most of us think we have to stretch and lengthen our muscles, but that’s just one of the tissues that needs attention,” she said. “You have to look at all the tissues that can get short and tight that cause us aging, with muscles being one. The dura, the covering around the spinal cord, being two.
“But I think the unique part of my book is the fact I talk about ligaments shortening.”
Ligaments attach bone to bone. Gravity has a negative impact over time that causes them to shorten and get stiffer, Pearson said. Each of these categories – stretching muscle, dura and ligaments – require different protocols. She gives examples of muscle and dura stretches in the morning for 4 minutes, and then brief ligament work before bedtime using a foam roller or beach towel rolled up neatly.
In observing patients for four decades, Pearson said people today are much stiffer than when she first started. She believes it’s part diet and part lack of regular movement, along with habits of spending large amounts of time on computers and devices.
“It breaks my heart because we have so much ability to change our future,” she said. “Even people who are considered decrepit still can shift and change because the spine is a living tissue. If you do the right thing for it, it responds favorably.”
Although there are some limits – such as after severe accidents or being in a wheelchair for decades – most people can improve with a little work, she said. Pearson includes 120 illustrations for affected muscles and anatomy. Life should be lived without pain, she said, or at least not much at all.
Too many people older than 60 can’t get down on the floor, perhaps because of a knee issue, Pearson added. They can’t get up off the floor from sitting with ankles crossed. They might start to walk slower and limit their activities.
“How can you live a full life if you don’t have a full range of motion? They stop having the adventures in life because their body can’t take it,” Pearson said.
The book gives examples of how people get to where they’re not moving enough, perhaps ignoring pain. Instead, Pearson tells people it’s important to seek treatment immediately for injuries and pain versus letting it go and moving less.
If a joint is injured, the body heals by tightening up the area and limiting range of motion, she said. But if that’s continuing, people have less “proprioceptive feedback,” which is the body’s perception and awareness of motion and moving.
“That’s the neurological ability of our body to say, ‘Hey, here’s what my body is doing in time and space, and it’s sending data to the brain.’ The brain then responds and says, ‘OK, let’s do this instead of that.’
“Without proprioceptive feedback, which happens only when the joints are moving, your brain becomes really unable to control your body, so you’re more prone to imbalance, more prone to not trusting your body on unlevel surfaces.”
Pearson said she consistently does the 8 minutes of moves in the book along with workouts for about 25 minutes three times a week that might be walking or running, yoga and lifting weights.
“I’m not saying that more is not better, but I am saying that the very minimum is critical,” she said. “We’re running into a time frame where so many people are aging so poorly.”
In the book, she also talks about the art of walking, along with the concept of “lead with your heart.” People should walk heel to toe with arms swinging, “and that they’re feeling their butt engaged going forward,” Pearson said.
“The thing I like to have people focus on is to lead with your heart so that the heart moves toward the front of you as opposed to being slouched to where your head is first. When your heart comes forward in your body … you go into good posture. Automatically, you become more erect.”
But she also tells people to try an experiment, to walk “heart first” into a room to see if that mentally leads to being more interested in others.
Overall, it takes a little bit of certain moves and activity each day to stay healthy, just as we brush our teeth and drink water, she said.
“What we don’t know is how, if you stop doing the bare minimum, you start to lose in a big way,” she said.
“Eight Minutes to Ageless” is available at the Balboa Press Online Bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $15.99.
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