Aging is inevitable. Each day we are all getting older. And with the passing of years comes the aging of our bodies. Joints don’t work quite as well, aches and pains increase. However, seniors can combat the aging process, staying healthy and feeling better longer, by doing one simple thing – staying active.
Dr. Murray Smith and Dr. Amanda Kugel at Eastside Chiropractic see patients ranging in age from newborns to seniors in their 90s and they see first-hand the changes occurring as people age. They also see first-hand the dramatic benefits patients experience when they remain active into their senior years. And while they may not be running marathons, there are plenty of ways seniors can include activity in their daily routines, helping keep their bodies strong and healthy for years to come.
“I observe people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s that I treat and the one common factor they all have are routines,” explains Dr. Smith. “Every single one of them has some kind of routine of activity that they’ve maintained for literally decades.” These routines of activity can be purposeful –a group of women who regularly walk together, a weekly exercise class, a set time to swim laps then get a morning coffee with your buddies. But many seniors have routines of activity they don’t even realize are positively impacting their health.
Dr. Smith shares a story illustrating one such hidden routine of activity.
“I have a patient who is 91-years-old. She lives about ¾ of a mile from a little store. She gets up every morning, starts the coffee, and then walks to the store to buy her morning paper instead of having it delivered. She walks back home and by then her coffee is ready. She sits down, reads her paper and enjoys her coffee. For her, it’s all about reading her paper and enjoying her coffee. What she doesn’t necessarily see is that she walks a mile and a half every day. And she’s 91. It’s a routine.”
Many seniors stay active simply through the activities they love. Gardening, whether flowers or vegetables, provides regular activity which in turn keeps joints and muscles active and healthy. Seniors who maintain their active hobbies, with modifications as time goes on, sustain joint mobility far longer than those who adopt sedentary habits as they age. “Seniors who have routines that ensure they move each day have joints just as healthy as people 20 or 30 years younger who have a sedentary lifestyle,” shares Dr. Smith.
So what is the science behind this? “The only way a joint heals is with movement,” says Smith. “If you want a joint to more rapidly deteriorate, don’t move it. Or move it in a mechanically unsound manner.”
Smith goes on to explain that good bio-mechanics (the proper movement of a joint) will result in a healthy joint, no matter your age whereas poor bio-mechanics will deteriorate a joint. When your back is sore, for example, you may adjust the way you move to minimize discomfort. This has an impact on the way your hip, knee and even shoulder joints function potentially creating more issues down the road.
“Good movement is good medicine,” says Dr. Smith. “Bad movement, or improper movement, is poison to the body.”
Seniors in particular often accept aches and pains as part of the aging process and ignore them as “normal aging.” Dr. Smith encourages them to address these issues before they become a problem – one that can impact other body systems and cause further damage. “We always do everything in our power first to avoid surgery,” says Dr. Smith. Interventions include massage, nutritional changes, flexibility and stretching routines, and chiropractic adjustments.
Dr. Smith also knows first-hand that sometimes you have to give up a beloved activity to ensure prolonged health. “I gave up basketball even though I loved it,” he shares. “I knew it was killing my knees and I wasn’t willing to pay the price for continuing.” Smith replaced his weekly games with other, lower impact activities enabling him to stay active, maintain his routines, and save his knees.
Dr. Smith urges seniors, and everyone for that matter, to seek and establish healthy routines of movement. Park farther from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, meet for a daily walk with a friend, or join a fitness class. Staying active will, by default, enable you to stay active.
While aging is inevitable, giving up an active lifestyle isn’t. Establishing routines of activity that not only keep you moving into your senior years, but bring you joy, are a key to maintaining mobility, strength and health into your golden years.
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