Are you doing better than last year?

You walk a few miles every day, exercise a few days each week and generally try to keep yourself fit and flexible.

You think you’re getting along pretty darn well. You’ve heard a few friends around your age have fallen, but you’re not worried about taking a tumble because you stay so active.

But if you were really challenged, could you say for certain your balance, strength and flexibility were improving year to year (or at least being maintained)?

Our lives are filled with things we check and maintain on a regular basis. Our vehicles need oil changes and tire rotations periodically, so we visit a service station or do it at home. You keep an eye on your water and heating bills so any suspicious spikes can be investigated. We see our medical care providers to check our medications, blood pressure and other personal health measures.

As we approach the new year, many thoughts turn to what goals they might set. Many people aim to lower cholesterol or blood pressure values, shed a few pounds, or better control their blood sugar. In physical therapy, we tend to focus on what tasks people can perform and how effectively and safely they can perform them.

Starting this January, all seven Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center locations across Northern Michigan will be offering an annual physical therapy check-up. We’ll assess balance, strength, flexibility, cardiovascular ability and gait to give an overall snapshot of functional ability. Although this program is especially beneficial for those over 60 years old, people of any age are invited to participate.

The idea is to offer the chance for our neighbors to check in once a year and ask questions about their balance and mobility. We’ll also help you catch any declines in function before they are far enough along to cause issues.

Our goal is to make sure you continue to function at your highest potential possible. We want you to continue to golf, ski, play tennis, hike in the woods, wrestle with grandkids, or even just step off of curbs and get out in the community well into your 70s, 80s,and 90s!

Here’s how it works:

— Call one of our offices and ask to schedule an annual check-in. There is no cost and it takes about 15-20 minutes.

— After hearing about your goals and concerns, our staff will put you through a few tests which are able to assess your balance, flexibility, strength, and overall mobility. (This is not a substitute for an annual physical with your doctor. You still need to do that too.)

— Afterwards, we will schedule another check-in for either six months or a year later. We’ll apply the same metrics each time. This will help us track your safety, mobility and overall function year to year. If we see a sudden decline in strength, balance, or mobility, we can help you come up with a plan to address these issues.

We piloted this program for a few patients over a year ago and we’ve seen some great results. One person saw a sudden decline in his single-leg stance time from one year to the next, so we informed his physician and started him on a program to reduce his fall risk. An 86-year-old was extremely pleased to see that her scores for squats, balance and overall endurance actually improved from her first year to her second.

Because declines in strength, balance, and mobility usually occur slowly over the course of months and years, it is difficult to know when there is an issue until it is too late. Getting started with our annual check-in is a great way to hit the easy-button when it comes to monitoring your safety and mobility as you move through your 60’s into your 70’s and beyond.

Jeff Samyn is a Physical Therapist, board-certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center in Petoskey. He may be reached via e-mail at