Lots of things happen to our bodies as we age – most all of them aren’t good. (But aging beats the alternative.) Three of things that are bad we can do something about. At the end of this IFOD is a simple mortality test that will give you an idea where you stand on these things.
First, we lose flexibility due to a number of factors including thickening of ligaments, retention of water in the tendons, loss of muscle mass, reduction in cartilage, among other things. That’s too bad because loss of flexibility reduces our abilities to engage in activities of daily life, increase our chances of injury and can cause pain and discomfort. Plus, as we lose flexibility we tend to shuffle as we walk and appear stiff -all of which makes us appear and feel old.
Second, we lose muscle. From birth until our early 30s we gain muscle. From our mid-30s on we tend to lose about 1/2 pound of muscle a year – or about 3-5% of our muscle mass per decade. To make matters worse, this muscle is often replaced with fat.
Third, we lose bone mass as we age and our bones become more brittle as they lose minerals. We tend to begin to lose bone mass around age 40 and for women bone loss accelerates after menopause (as much as 4% per year). This is bad as it leads to risk of fracture and disability and bone disease.
Depressing isn’t it? Can we do anything about these problems? Yes. At least half of the age-related changes to muscles bones and joints is the result of disuse. Studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise and strength training can slow and in some cases reverse for years these effects. Regular stretching such as yoga is also huge,y beneficial. From Better Health Australia:
Research shows that:
- Exercise can make bones stronger and help slow the rate of bone loss.
- Older people can increase muscle mass and strength through muscle-strengthening activities.
- Balance and coordination exercises, such as tai chi, can help reduce the risk of falls.
- Physical activity in later life may delay the progression of osteoporosis as it slows down the rate at which bone mineral density is reduced.
- Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or weight training, is the best type of exercise for maintenance of bone mass. There is a suggestion that twisting or rotational movements, where the muscle attachments pull on the bone, are also beneficial.
- Older people who exercise in water (which is not weight bearing) may still experience increases in bone and muscle mass compared to sedentary older people.
- Stretching is another excellent way to help maintain joint flexibility.
Now the mortality test reported in Discover Magazine called the “Sitting-Rising Test” (“SRT”):
“In a study published in the European Journal of Cardiology, [a researcher] had more than 2,000 patients ages 51 to 80, all part of an exercise program at Clinimex Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, take the SRT. People who scored fewer than eight points on the test, he found, were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher; those who scored three or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period compared with those who scored more than eight points.
Overall, each point increase in the SRT score was associated with a 21 percent decrease in mortality from all causes.” Here’s the test:
Scoring: The two basic movements in the sitting-rising test — lowering to the floor and standing back up — are each scored on a 1-to-5 scale, with one point subtracted each time a hand or knee is used for support and 0.5 points subtracted for loss of balance; this yields a single 10-point scale.