Getting older means changes to your body. Keeping active is an essential aspect of healthy ageing.
Article by Graceville Physiotherapist Matt Fowler
As we age, our bodies undergo several changes that can lead to an overall loss of strength, balance, and a general feeling like you just can’t keep up with the things you’re used to (think running across a tennis court back and forth for a volley, or getting up and down from the ground to do gardening all day).
These changes are completely normal, but for some people it can be quite alarming. It’s common to think age is just ‘catching up’ and that there isn’t much to be done, but with an appropriate exercise program, our physios can help you maintain your strength and keep you doing the things you love for longer!
Normal ‘physiological’ ageing is a process that causes changes to several systems in your body; hearing loss, changes to vision, slowing down of reaction times. But primary to these changes are those in your musculoskeletal system. This is the part of the body made up of your muscles, bones, joints, and tendons; all the bits that keep you moving. Most people lose up to 40% of their muscle mass by the time they reach their 80s, and a lot of this comes from the big, powerful muscles of their lower limbs .
These muscles are made up of many little fibers that can be categorised into two major types: Type I and Type II. Type I fibers, also called ‘slow twitch’ fibers, don’t get tired easily, so they’re great where endurance comes into mind but they can’t produce a lot of force quickly. Type II ‘fast twitch’ fibers can produce a lot of force but they fatigue very quickly. Because muscles are made up of a combination of both types of fibers, they’re capable of both short bursts of power AND more prolonged contractions. As you age, your muscles begin to get smaller in size due to a loss of fibers, and on top of this, your fast-twitch fibers begin to slowly transform into slow-twitch fibers . Overall, this leads to smaller muscles with less capability to produce quick, powerful movements. This means you might have a hard time doing all sorts of activities of day to day life, such as playing golf or tennis, walking up and down stairs, or even just trying to catch yourself if you trip over something.
Exercise is an essential aspect of healthy ageing and studies show that a whole range of different activities can be used to both reduce the loss of muscle fibers, and also to build up strength in already weaker muscles . Circuit based exercise programs that involve a combination of both endurance exercises and strength based exercises can lead to meaningful improvements in mobility and function in as little as 12 weeks . Additionally, resistance based exercises can load your skeletal system and help preserve bone mineral density . These types of exercise programs are even shown to have meaningful improvements over mental health and wellbeing . Whether these are exercise classes, or a program you perform at home, our physios are movement experts who can help find the right program for you to help you feel more confident playing sports, help maintain your mobility for longer, or even help you get your mobility back.
1.Lexell J. Human aging, muscle mass, and fiber type composition. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1995;50 Spec No:11–16. 2.Ciciliot S, Rossi AC, Dyar KA, Blaauw B, Schiaffino S. Muscle type and fiber type specificity in muscle wasting. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2013;45:2191–2199 3. Yoo SZ, No MH, Heo JW, et al. Role of exercise in age-related sarcopenia. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(4):551-558 4. Lee MY, Jun WS, Lee MG. Effects of a 12-week circuit exercise program on fall-related fitness in elderly women with sarcopenia. Korean J Sports Sci. 2017;26:1123–1135. 5.Hong AR, Kim SW. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018;33(4):435-444. 6.Ferreira CB, Teixaria PDS, Santos GA, Maya ATD, …., Nobrega OT. Effects of a 12-Week. Exercise Training Program on Physical Function in Institutionalised Frail Elderly. Journal of Aging Research. 2018.
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