Shirley Sahrmann on Exercise and Aging Well

What movements and exercises does a leading Physical Therapist consider essential to aging well? I recently had the pleasure of attending the Lower Quadrant Advanced Application course in Missouri and had the opportunity to ask the course instructor, Shirley Sahrmann, that question.

Dr. Sahrmann is Professor of Physical Therapy, at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. She is the recipient of numerous awards and author of a number of books. She is recognized as a leading researcher, instructor, and thinker in the area of movement impairment syndromes. She is also a mentor and inspiration for many Physical Therapists — including me.

Dr. Sahrmann’s Exercise Routine

Dr. Sahrmann is 76 years old and maintains a busy work schedule.  During each of the four days in St. Louis, Dr Sahrmann started before 9:00 AM and finished well past 5:00 PM.  She worked with patients, got down on her hands and knees when needed, and moved spryly throughout the day.

She travels the world training Physical Therapists on the concepts of movement system syndromes.

Even with her busy professional calendar, she keeps an exercise program that includes:

  1. Walking 4.5 to 5 miles a day. Dr. Sahrmann logs 10,000 to 15,000 steps per day on her FitBit.
  2. Riding a stationary bike for 15 to 20 minutes each day.
  3. Practicing the quadruped rocking exercise.

“Collapso-Smasho Syndrome”

Dr. Sahrmann is concerned about the postural epidemic she refers to as collapso-smasho. To combat this, she works hard to keep her trunk elongated and her posture aligned. She practices straightening her spine on the floor and against a wall.

Keeping Her Balance

Dr. Sahrmann does not do specific exercises for her balance, but she does incorporate balance improvement activities into her daily life. For example, she dresses each day from a standing position. And when she travels, she makes a point of standing in moving vehicles, such as trains, in order to strengthen her hip abductors.

Video Interview with Shirley Sahrmann

Dr. Sahrmann covers these points and more in her video interview with me at Washington University.

This is the first of a three part series of video interviews I had with Dr. Sahrmann. In part two of this series, Dr. Sahrmann discusses the future of Physical Therapy and what the profession has to do to stay relevant. In part 3, she discusses her career in Physical Therapy.

Stay tuned.

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