Master the Art of Aging

Chris Thompson brought his extensive knowledge of exercise and aging to Mobility Matters, a programming system he designed “to help older adults prevent falls, maximize physical function, and achieve physical vitality, well-being and happiness.” He talked with Reflections to explain more about his philosophies on living well through the decades and why he’s making a special trip to the Bellevue Club this July.

Be a Jack or Jill of all trades. Cardio, strength, mobility, and balance are all key pillars to aging gracefully and avoiding injury. “You need to do a little of a lot of things to stay optimally healthy.” These are the four areas of training that Thompson focuses on in his Mobility Matters program.

Take falling seriously. The most common injury from a fall is a wrist fracture. The second most common is a hip fracture, which can be life threatening. “Twenty percent of people don’t live past a year once they sustain that particular injury.” And, if they do survive past a year, their quality of life is usually affected quite a bit.

Small things make a big difference. “One of the simple things we focus on first is walking gait and the mechanics of moving.” As people age, they start to shuffle their feet, or their spine might start curving, causing them to look down a lot. This can lead to tripping or falling. Thompson’s program teaches clients how to start with the basics and build from there.

Strength is always important. One aspect of strength that Mobility Matters emphasizes is being able to remain “forceful and quick with the muscles.” This can help correct a stumble or fall because oftentimes people can’t move powerfully enough to catch themselves. This is a slightly different approach from traditional strength training.

Don’t overthink the balance training. Balance work doesn’t have to be complicated or exhausting. Anyone can practice shifting from one leg to the other while standing in the grocery store line. “Make life an exercise and just do things when and where you can.” There are plenty of little tips and hacks to help people who aren’t used to vigorous exercise.

Mobility should be mindful. Stretching and keeping a good range of motion in the hips, ankle and shoulders can keep people more agile as they age. Joints are crucial to keeping everything moving as is should in the body.

Don’t assume high activity levels prevent falls. Exercise can definitely help prevent injury, but also highly active older people are sometimes putting themselves at more risk by skiing, hiking, and so on. That’s why mobility and balance are equally important as cardiovascular exercise.

Have a conversation. Talk about how to stay healthy through the years. “We all have friends or family that have had a bad fall that changed their lives.” If we normalize the aging process, it can help people remove the shame and think about fall prevention.

For more information about Mobility Matters, please visit

Meet Chris Thompson

Chris is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of San Francisco, an affiliate researcher in Neurology at UCSF Medical Center, and the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions, LLC.  He has published scientific articles on exercise programming for older adults in peer-reviewed journals such as Translational Journal of the ACSM, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, and Journal of Applied Research.

Meet Chris Thompson in July when he comes to the Bellevue Club to give a presentation. He will also be training some of our in-house fitness staff instructors so they can provide members training using his philosophies and techniques.

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