As we grow older, our bodies grow older. This is not something that you should be ashamed, nor deterred by. There are known physiological changes that occur in our body as a result of the ageing process.
Loss of calcium and bone minerals – bones become more brittle and therefore more likely to fracture
Calcification of joints
Loss of cartilage in joints and increased incidence of osteoarthritis
Loss of muscle strength – muscle fibres shrink and are replaced at a slower rate
Increased risk of developing osteoporosis
Increased risk of falls which may result in fracture
Loss of height in disc fluid between the vertebrae
Foot arches become less pronounced
Did you know that you can offset the effects of ageing on your body by exercising? There are many associated benefits of exercise, including;
Decrease falls risk by improving your balance
Increase bone density…healthier, stronger bones are harder to break!
Build and maintain muscle strength
Improve muscle length
Enhance your aerobic capacity, thereby decreasing your work of breathing
Manage pain and condition specific symptoms
Enhance your quality of life
So, your physio is telling you to exercise, but, what does the evidence say?
The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend that older individuals partake in aerobic activity (i.e. walking, swimming, cycling) tailored to suit their level of aerobic fitness, activities which maintain or increase their flexibility, balance exercises and muscle strengthening activities. Both recommending bodies agree that the primary aims of exercise for the older population include reducing sedentary behaviour, decreasing falls risk and risk management. As we grow older, the aim, or goal, of our exercise program turns more towards improving or maintaining your balance and enhancing your quality of life.
The NSW Health Best Practice Guidelines recommend that exercise for falls prevention should provide a moderate or high challenge to our balance. That is to say, balance exercises are supposed to be hard! They continue to recommend that balance exercises be undertaken for at least 2 hours per week, on an ongoing basis. Seems a lot doesn’t it! Interestingly, walking or strength based programs do not specifically decrease our risk of falls as a single intervention.
So! Where to from here?
When setting out to improve your physical health and wellbeing, it is an excellent idea to set some functional goals to keep you motivated and accountable. Some excellent examples include;
Be able to climb two flights of stairs without rest
Be able to push the trolley up and down the aisles of the supermarket
Go back to wearing my high heels
Be able to walk 1km carrying a 7kg bag without rest (excellent for all the travellers out there)
Be able to walk from the car park to the football oval, so I can watch the grandkids play soccer
Did you know that Peak Physio runs a weekly Gentle Exercise Class, tailored and targeted at the older population? The classes are designed and run by physios, providing you with an excellent opportunity to enhance your physical quality of life and also meet new people!
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Bolam, K.A., van Uffelen, J.G.Z., Taaffe, D.R. (2013). The effect of physical exercise on bone density in middle-aged and older men: a systematic review. Osteoporosis International. 24 (11).
Sherrington, C., Tiedemann, A., Fairhall , N., Close. J., Lord, S.R. (2011).
Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations. NSW Public Health Bulletin, 22(4) 78-83 https://dx.doi.org/10.1071/NB10056.
Hart, L.E., Haaland, D.A., Baribeau, D.A., Mukovozov, I.M., Sabljic, T.F. (2008). The relationship between exercise and osteoarthritis in the elderly. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine,18(6):508-521.
Bennell, K., Hinman, R. (2011). A review of the clinical evidence for exercise in osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Centre for Health Exercise and Sports Medicine, Department of Physiotherapy, The University of Melbourne, Australia. 14:1.