|Weak knees? Bad back?|
Aging affects every part of your body, including those parts you can’t actually see but you can sure feel: muscles, bones and joints. While you can’t turn back the clock, you can do a lot to strengthen your skeleton and keep your frame fit:
- Move it or lose it. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, many musculoskeletal changes stem from disuse rather than aging. With your healthcare provider’s approval, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. If you suffer from joint pain, choose easy-on-the-limbs workouts like swimming or walking. Also consider adding weight training, which increases muscle mass, and stretching exercises, which help keep joints flexible.
- Stop smoking. Smokers are more apt to suffer sprains and fractures than nonsmokers. In fact, if you’re an elderly smoker, you have a 41 percent greater chance of fracturing your hip than a nonsmoking counterpart. Smoking interferes with calcium absorption, reduces the blood supply to bones and slows the formation of bone-building cells, resulting in decreased bone density and more brittle bones.
- Stand up straight. Good posture puts your body in proper alignment, meaning your muscles, joints and ligaments work more efficiently with less strain on your body. For good posture, stand with your head held straight, shoulders even and knees facing straight ahead.
- Get to an ideal weight. The less excess weight you carry, the less strain on your bones and joints. If you need to slim down, talk to your provider about weight-loss options.
- Stay balanced. Proper balance is essential to staying strong and preventing falls. Older adults may have a problem maintaining their balance because of diseases such as diabetes, which can produce numbness in the lower limbs; a sedentary lifestyle; and a slouched posture. Tai chi, a gentle form of martial arts, is one way to improve balance. You should also talk with your healthcare provider, who can recommend specific balance exercises or refer you to a physical therapist.