These signs of aging include:
• Osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones
• Loss of cartilage, the cushion in the joints
• Osteoarthritis, or wear and tear on the joints
• Increase in blood pressure and heart disease
• Gaining excess weight
• Decreased metabolic rate
• Decreased muscle tone and joint mobility
We can fight each of these conditions, however, with a fitness plan and a dedication to carrying out that plan. A fitness program of regular exercise and a healthy diet can slow or reverse each of these conditions.
Regular resistance exercise, which includes walking and weight lifting, counters osteoporosis by helping bones continue to grow and maintain strength.
Exercise helps produce nutrients that slow the thinning and hardening of cartilage. This helps reduce pain in the joints and keeps them flexible.
For osteoarthritis, exercise and stretching can maintain or improve joint mobility, and strengthening exercise builds muscle that helps support joints.
Walking, cycling or other cardiovascular exercise helps lower blood pressure and keeps the heart healthy.
Eating a healthy diet also helps prevent atherosclerosis, the narrowing and hardening of arteries caused by the buildup of fatty deposits along the arteries’ inner walls.
As we age, our basal metabolic rate slows, which means that our bodies burn fewer calories when at rest. Thus, we require fewer calories and we need to eat smaller portions. Continuing to eat the same amounts as when we were younger leads to weight gain. We also need to compensate for the lower metabolic rate by exercising to burn more calories.
When you create your fitness routine, be sure that it includes stretching, aerobic exercise and strength training.
When stretching, you should move every muscle through its full range of motion every day. Be sure to stretch the spine along with all of the muscles. Do this enough to feel the stretch but not pain.
Always do stretching before aerobic exercise. This helps keep muscles supple, improves coordination and prevents injuries It also increases the range of motion of joints, body temperature, heart rate and blood flow to muscles. Stretch with slow and relaxed motions, avoid bouncing and stretch only to the point of mild tension. Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds each while breathing slowly and naturally. Then relax the stretch. Stretch a little farther each time.
For aerobic exercise, aim for 30 minutes of walking or cycling a day. Start with five or 10 minutes a day, and, as that becomes easy, add a few minutes. Continue to add minutes until you reach 30 minutes a day.
For strength, do resisted exercise every day, using weights for the legs and arms. As with other fitness activities, start out easy with light weight and build up. Move each joint through its full range of motion and avoid causing pain with any exercise.
Remember that none of these activities should cause pain. Pain is not a normal sensation; it is the body’s alarm system. If pain persists for five to seven days, see a physical therapist. He or she is trained to assess and treat pain and restore motion. A physical therapist can return you to your active lifestyle or provide modifications to your routine, to help you enjoy exercise.
You can learn about fighting the serious signs of aging by attending my presentation from 6 to 7 p.m. on at the Sparks Medical Office Building, Suite 203, on the Northern Nevada Medical Center campus. To RSVP, call 356-6662.
If you have joint pain, I also offer free 15-minute joint pain assessments. Call 356-4960 for an appointment
Steven Hallan is director of the Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center at Northern Nevada Medical Center, located at the Sparks Medical Office Building, 2385 E. Prater Way, Suite 301. He has 15 years of experience as an outpatient physical therapist and is a credentialed McKenzie therapist, specializing in disorders of the spine and peripheral joint problems. Hallan bases his treatment on a detailed dynamic evaluation of the spine or joint involved. Therapy includes manual techniques, stretches and exercise to resolve the problem plus educating the patient on preventing a recurrence of the injury.