Muscles, joints and bones are body parts vital to our movement and enable us to accomplish tricky feats such as downhill skiing and dancing, or simple things like writing with a pencil and hugging a loved one.
Bones provide our basic body structure, joints allow the flexibility of movement, and muscles hold them together to make it all possible. It is important to pay attention to these body parts – not just when they hurt – and to care for them as we age. Proper care of muscles, joints and bones now helps ensure strength and mobility as we age, and may mean the difference in growing old gracefully…or not.
As we age, our bones lose density, muscles lose flexibility, and joints become worn over time. Mobility can become limited and balance can be affected, making us more at risk for falling and fracturing bones. Seniors are especially prone to falling, and also to diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis, which can impose limitations in the most basic activities of life.
Even without the affliction of disease, the older our joints, bones and muscles become, the more important it is to know how to maintain these parts in order to preserve our basic bodily movement. Studies show healthy eating habits and moderate exercise can improve and maintain joint mobility, muscle mass and also strengthen bones – even after the onset of osteoporosis or arthritis.
What seniors need to eat and why
Diets rich in calcium and vitamin D help maintain bone density. Vitamin D can also act as an anti-inflammatory in regards to joint pain, while omega 3 fatty acids found in fish such as tuna and salmon can reduce joint swelling and pain, as well. Maintaining a healthy weight decreases the pressure on your joints and can prevent inflammation of joint tissue as it degrades over time. Limiting fat intake from other sources will not only aid in maintaining a healthy weight, but also keeps fatty tissues from developing in your muscles, which can weaken them.
Senior exercise and why it helps
Talking with a doctor about exercise is the first step to help strengthen bones. He or she may recommend strength training, which can help bones retain density and strength and builds muscle mass that improves flexibility, which can have a direct effect on balance and posture. Strength training can prevent osteoporosis, and also keeps the disease from getting worse if you already have it. Strength training consists of weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, lifting weights, using a stair climber or another activity that moves your body against gravity. Moderate aerobic exercise can help ease the pain of arthritis and includes bicycling at less than ten miles per hour, water aerobics and brisk walking. Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are exercises that stretch your muscles and keep them flexible. Always consult with your physician before undertaking a physical activity that is new to you to make sure the activity meets your level of ability.
No matter how old you are, changing your eating and exercise habits for the better will have a direct effect on the quality of life you lead as you age. As intimidating as it may seem at first, incorporating healthy food and exercise into your daily routine now will help you properly care for your muscles, joints and bones so that they can continue to function…and take care of you, as well.