Want to slow the aging process? You’ve got to move it
You know the story. You wake up one day and, BAM! You’re over 50.
What used to be firm isn’t so firm anymore. It takes a little longer to get up in the morning. Body parts don’t move like they use to and for some strange reason, most of your clothing seems to have shrunk in the dryer.
Welcome to the world of the 50-plus. On the metabolic rollercoaster of life, you are now on the down slope. Don’t despair, though. It happens to us all at one point or another.
While it is true that some people age more gracefully than others and things like exercise and diet become more challenging as we climb the ladder of years, we don’t have to go silently into the night. We can fight the negative attributes of aging.
Here’s a sobering statistic: According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, fewer than 10 percent of Americans participate in regular exercise and the most sedentary (inactive) group in this population is over the age of 50.
So, what exactly happens when we age?
For the most part, most of the changes our musculo-skeletal systems go through after 50 are more a result of lack of use than simply from the aging process.
As a result, our tendons become less elastic; ligaments become stiffer; there is a slow but progressive loss of muscle mass and the number of muscle fibers, thus making it more difficult for them to respond. Bones begin to de-mineralize and lose their density (known as “disuse osteopenia”). Joint cartilage becomes increasingly dried out, causing it to become more brittle and susceptible to cracking, injury and degenerative arthritis.
Age-related increase in body fat deposition normally occurs and can accelerate in the absence of exercise. I know none of you wanted to hear that.
Exercise can be very beneficial. It can help improve your mood; combat chronic disease such as osteoporosis and high cholesterol; strengthen the heart and lungs, promote better sleep… and even improve your sex life.
So here’s what you can do:
• Stretching. This is a good thing. Stretching can help preserve the elasticity of muscles and tendons. In turn, this helps with joint mobility, which helps with activity, and so on.
Stretching should be done before any exercise activity. Even the simplest of activities such as walking should be preceded by stretching. “Windmills” loosen the lower back and helps with activities such as golf.
Stretching is as important to muscle health as weight training is, because if you can’t move your body parts through their normal range of motion, there is increased risk of injury.
Examples of general stretching exercises would include calf stretches, “windmills” and hamstring (back of thighs) stretches.
• Weight training. Done safely, weight training helps to build and strengthen muscles, which improves their supportive abilities as well as improving the ability to perform tasks and functions without maximum exertion. Benefits of weight training include not only the preservation of existing muscle fibers, but also the promotion of new muscle tissue. Increased muscle burns more calories. Exercising muscle immediately mobilizes fat into energy (hum…Burns more calories…fat-burning?).
As with any weight or resistance training activity, make sure you are healthy enough for the activity, start very slow and light and increase your routine gradually.
• Aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise is sustained activity that increases oxygen consumption and heart rate. Be very careful here. Aerobic exercise has healthy benefits to the heart muscle, lung capacity and the waistline. Do not engage in any aerobic exercise (or any exercise period) unless you have been medically cleared to do so.
Studies like the one at UCLA have long demonstrated that long-term exercise does indeed slow the loss of muscle mass and decreases that dreaded age-related increase in body fat.
Thirty minutes a day can lead to healthy changes.
The old saying that “any exercise is better than no exercise” has never been truer. However, exercise doesn’t have to be “cruel and unusual punishment” either. Activities such as walking, swimming, bicycle riding and even square dancing are all appropriate forms of exercise as we age. This can even be broken up into smaller periods of activity.
So, don’t take the aging process lying down. Move it!
Ken’s expertise in nursing, orthopedics and surgery, spans more than 30 years. He holds multiple national certifications in these specialties. His goal is to empower people, through education and information, to become more engaged, proactive and responsible in their orthopedic health, and health care. For more information, visit www.bone-and-joint-pain.com