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  • Writer's pictureFrances Rogers, PT, DPT

Debunking Common Misconceptions About Aging

Addressing the myths regarding what we should and shouldn't do as we get older


Aging is a natural part of life, and yet, the majority of society is trying to avoid the inevitable. Aging in itself is something that can have positive aspects, but also some caveats. This blog post is going to address some of the most common misconceptions about aging, with a focus on the physical side.



Myth #1: Physical deterioration is inevitable


While not entirely untrue, a lot of aging adults often have this assumption. Our bodies will experience natural wear and tear, but we have this throughout the entire life span, and not just in our older years. This wear and tear becomes more prevalent as our bodies' natural replacement for healthy cells starts to slow down.


However, this deterioration also doesn't have to be complete, as we can often mitigate this process. In fact, just expecting physical deterioration increases the likelihood that someone will physically deteriorate.


Simple ways to address this are eating a balanced diet, maintaining an active lifestyle, and creating a positive outlook as aging adults enter their later years. Further into this post, we will cover specific guidelines that can help keep your tissues happy and healthy!



Myth #2: There is no need for exercise as it won't have any benefit


No shocker here as this blog addresses exercise, but physical activity is vital as we age! Aging adults have a lot to gain from physical activity, with physical, mental-emotional, and cognitive benefits. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce the likelihood of developing dementia, can improve mood as well as reduce the risk of falls.


An even more impressive statistic is that physical activity reduces the chance of all-cause mortality in active persons compared to individuals who live a more sedentary lifestyle by at least 20%. That means that staying active is the "magic pill" that slows aging processes and some of the risks associated with being inactive. Pretty neat!


Myth #3: Osteoporosis and Osteopenia is only a problem for Women


This, in fact, is a myth. Even though it is more prevalent in women, this condition can be underdiagnosed in men. Typical factors contributing to osteoporosis risk include low amounts of Vitamin D, family history as well as not enough weight-bearing and resistance exercise.


A condition that also affects men and women is osteopenia. Osteopenia is often the precursor to osteoporosis, which is when the density of your bones is lower than expected for your age. Osteopenia and osteoporosis often have the same recommendations in terms of intervention, so it is important to be proactive while you are in the osteopenia stage to slow or prevent osteoporosis.


It's good to also note that osteopenia/osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are often confused with each other. They are two different diagnoses that affect the bones in different areas of the body, with osteopenia and osteoporosis affecting bone density, while osteoarthritis affects joint spaces where bones articulate. For more info on osteoarthritis, see our blog post on osteoarthritis.



 

Addressing the Myths


Now that we have discussed some myths surrounding aging, what can you do about it?


A great place to start is to reflect on your current lifestyle and what that looks like. Are you leading an active life and staying busy? Or are you spending a lot of time relaxing and not doing as much physical activity? Whichever you are leading now, there are some foundational recommendations for aging adults about what type of exercise you should do, how long you should exercise for, and the appropriate amount of rest.


The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the leading association dedicated to improving the quality of life through movement. the ACSM breaks down recommendations into 3 main components of exercise for aging adults:

  • Aerobic exercise: which is commonly referred to as cardiovascular exercise like walking, jogging, and running

  • Strength training: referring to resistance training whether that is with resistance bands, weights, or with body weight

  • Balance: this is challenging your base of support through activities like standing on one foot, walking on uneven surfaces, or negotiating obstacles. These activities help reduce your risk of falls.


Here are the formal recommendations for each category:


  • Aerobic:

    • 3-5 days a week at a moderate intensity, generally up to 150 minutes per week

      • This can be broken down into 3 days of 50 minutes of activity or 5 days of 30 minutes of activity

  • Strengthening:

    • Minimum 2-days per week with a rest day between sessions for muscles to rest appropriately

    • Typically with strength training, you will be doing repetitions and sets of exercises, a good place to start is 3 sets of 10 repetitions of the activity you are performing.

    • Resistance should be moderately intense, where you're feeling challenged but are able to complete all repetitions

  • Balance:

    • When initiating any balance activities, be sure to be near a surface like a countertop or a wall with a rail to catch yourself should you lose your balance

    • For timing, you can start with 15 seconds and gradually build up yourself to a full minute.

    • Balance activities can get progressively more challenging with introducing new surfaces to stand on, such as a foam pad or bosu ball. once you have reached a full minute on a standard surface and feel confident in the activity you performed, you can introduce new surfaces

 

A great way to start embracing aging is to maintain or increase your physical activity! Physical activity has been shown to decrease your risk for all-cause mortality, decrease risk for cognitive deficits as well as reduce fall risk and serious injury.


If you are experiencing difficulty with mobility, have pain, or want to be able to start safely increasing your physical activity, call 757-578-2958 or visit www.restorativetherapyco.com today! We will be happy to set up an appointment and get you on your way to a fulfilling life in your later years.


Contributed by Frances Rogers, PT, DPT


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