DuPage Medical Group surgeon talks about 'Active Aging and Orthopaedic Health -- Tips to Exercise Safely'
With the weather warming up, there will be more opportunities to engage in outdoor physical activity. Did you know that exercise can have a positive impact on bone and joint health for older adults?
Exercise specifically helps older adults build and maintain healthy bones. While ages 20-30s are considered prime years to reach peak bone mass, it's never too late for people to start taking care of their orthopaedic health.
As a person ages, his or her bone density weakens, leading to decreased bone mass and potential health issues, such as osteoporosis, thyroid disorders or diabetes. Medical conditions that affect bone health when aging can lead to loss of balance, tripping or falling which can cause hip fractures, distal radius (wrist) fractures or other injuries.
Generally, women over the age of 50 who are post-menopausal are at the highest risk for orthopaedic-related injuries due to experiencing a reduction in their estrogen levels -- a hormone that protects their bones. However, men are just as susceptible to suffering from bone injuries, too.
There are several risk factors that can lower the bone density as people age, but some of the most common culprits range from not getting enough exercise, having a low body weight, smoking, engaging in substance abuse, taking certain medications or having a history of previous fractures or chronic medical conditions.
Exercise is one of the best outlets to maintain healthy bone and joint health as a person ages. Bone is considered living tissue and continuously changes over time. Therefore, exercising for at least 30 minutes every day is especially important for the active aging, as it strengthens the body and surrounding tissues.
Physical activity creates a stronger foundation, develops overall coordination and balance and minimizes the risk of falling.
Everybody's endurance levels differ, so as people get older, they should consult with their doctor before engaging in any activity to determine what may be suitable for their specific health needs. Additionally, to create optimal wellness, it's just as essential that the older adults supplement exercise with a healthy diet, vitamin D and calcium, based on clinical guidance.
When exercising, a key goal to keep in mind is to start low and slow while letting pain be the guide. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, hiking or climbing stairs, are highly beneficial. These activities not only support an individual's weight against gravity, but also strengthens his or her bones. Swimming or biking are other options that can be easier on one's joints, benefit cardiovascular health and ease arthritis-related pain or symptoms.
For the active aging who may have previously experienced an orthopaedic-related injury or surgery, walking is highly advantageous. Walking can particularly benefit older adults because it is a low-impact activity that strengthens their joints and muscles.
To reduce the chance of experiencing injury or fractures while exercising, those that are older must protect their spine and avoid activities that are considered high impact or require flexing, bending and/or twisting. If soreness occurs, this typically shouldn't last more than 48 hours, but if there is prolonged pain, seek medical intervention sooner than later.
As individuals get older, staying fit can create an improved and enhanced quality of life. Exercise enables people to sustain a healthy lifestyle and prevent injuries. No matter people's age, everyone should find an activity that provides them the motivation to keep fit more frequently -- their orthopaedic health will thank them in the long run.
• Dr. Ivan Eck is a member of the DuPage Medical Group Musculoskeletal Institute team, dedicated to providing leading-edge orthopaedic care across the Chicago area. For more information about DMG's orthopaedic capabilities, visit www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/orthopaedics.