The topic of this article is what none of us can avoid. It is age or individual irreversible physiological process of involution of the organism. Aging brings us certain unpleasant changes in body function that we have not encountered before, and we each deal with them differently. However, we will describe here how it is very easy to slow down this process and thus improve the quality of life. Of course, it’s hard for me to write about old age, because I don’t have personal experience with it yet. However, what I have experience with is working with elderly patients. And I would like to benefit from this experience in line with the latest scientific knowledge. The purpose of the article is to motivate (not only) older readers to move and exercise regularly, because this is one of the few factors that can significantly improve the quality of life!
Certain changes are inevitable
Slowly but surely, physical and functional changes occur. The heart does not work at full capacity as it once did, but its output to the bloodstream gradually decreases. The blood is not so well oxygenated and does not contain enough important hormones and other substances important for the proper functioning of the body. It also weakens the immune system and increases the risk of disease. Gradually, fitness, strength, flexibility, speed, dexterity and other aspects of movement decrease. The bones become brittle, the joints wear out and the brain does not play its reflex protective role. The individual senses, including the so-called proprioception or reading of one’s own body and movement, gradually weaken. This significantly increases the risk of falls and their consequences can get worse and worse. Aging is different and fast for everyone. The situation is definitely not improved by alcohol, smoking, overweight,
Is it possible to slow down aging?
Time is relentless and cannot be stopped. However, we can slow down the aging process or mitigate its effects on the body, and thus significantly improve the quality of life. To this end, a comprehensive lifestyle adjustment in the form of reducing smoking, alcohol, low-quality industrially processed foods and psychosocial stress is absolutely indispensable, and on the contrary, ensuring sufficient quality sleep, staying in the sun, exercise in nature and the like. Of course, it’s best to start all this as soon as possible, not “on your old knees”, because prevention is always easier than cure .
However, we will deal mainly with the importance of physical activity and exercise regime, which is absolutely crucial for the good condition of the musculoskeletal system. The basic precondition for a quality life in old age is the prevention of falls. Falls can have very unpleasant consequences, from bone fractures to brain injuries. So we try to train stability and reactivity . We can find out whether a senior is at increased risk of falling simply by letting him go backwards and watching him cope with this task. The speed at which a senior walks back 3 meters is related to the frequency of falls in the past. Ideally, the old man should be able to walk this distance in less than 3 seconds. 1For example, exercises with closed eyes, stability training on one leg, or various variations of walking are suitable as training. The coach can also challenge the standing client not to “let himself be decided” and push him in various ways.
However, when the senior falls from time to time, he should be equipped with strong enough bones. For example, it has been shown that regular loading of the skeleton in the form of resistance or strength training has a beneficial effect on bone strength and treatment of osteoporosis. 3 If, unfortunately, a senior is really injured in a fall, some extra muscle mass will come in handy. Studies show that patients with more skeletal muscle volume show faster recovery from injury. 2 As there is a gradual loss of muscle mass with increasing age (called sarcopenia in the medical dictionary), training focused on muscle hypertrophy will certainly be appropriate .
But it doesn’t have to be a fall and a fracture, which we try to prevent. Articular cartilage, which acts like washing sponges, also deserves care. They need regular compression and subsequent lightening (as is the case with dynamic walking), because in the same way the cartilage absorbs the “joint oil” that softens and nourishes them. So once you have the choice between stairs and an elevator, the choice is clear. Although climbing stairs seems challenging and annoying, it’s definitely not something to hurt! Don’t wait for anything and start dynamic walking in time, because if you let osteoarthritis, such as the knee joint, develop too much, it’s too late for the therapeutic effect of walking. 6
With dynamic walking or an aerobic exercise program , you can systematically work to prevent degenerative changes not only in the joints, but also in the brain! 5 Regular physical activity has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing vascular dementia. In addition, your brain will also reward you with a flood of endorphins, which will have a positive effect on your mood. 4
The human body is not a machine that cannot be repaired
Fortunately, it’s never too late to start meaningfully moving and training. The body is not a machine that breaks down and needs to be replaced. It is not possible to apply the idea of a modern consumer society that the broken will be exchanged for new, and if possible better. It is a living, breathing organism. Exercise and physical exertion generally do not wear us out, but instead keep us going! Therefore, our body can be compared more to a garden that needs to be cared for (these metaphors should be captured mainly by grandmothers). We have to supply her with water regularly, grow fruit and maintain the lawn, flower beds and shrubs (don’t look for ambiguities). When we leave the garden fallow, the flowers wither and the flower beds are overgrown with weeds. The more challenging it will then be to put it back in order. It will take a while and it will not be easy, but with the help of a gardener (read a physiotherapist) it will definitely not be impossible. Many patients are so satisfied with the surprising results of rehabilitation that they reject the planned operation!
A word in conclusion
In the end, we will briefly summarize in individual points what to take away from this short article:
- With regular physical activity and a general adjustment of the lifestyle, aging cannot be stopped, but the joy of life can be significantly increased.
- Prevention is always easier than cure. The sooner we start to improve our lifestyle, the better.
- It is a huge mistake to think that as we get older, we are entitled to comfort. Not that we don’t deserve it, but we are undermining our own health and quality of life.
- The body is not a machine that wears out with load. On the contrary, physical exertion is necessary in order to encourage the musculoskeletal system to adapt and keep fit.