ARE YOU STRONG ENOUGH?
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF AGING
The Slippery Slope of Aging graph depicts the effects of age-related changes in muscle strength related to level of vigor. Simply put, it states that the stronger a person is, the more able they are to fully participate in enjoyable activities. What is critical to understand is that while there is a natural age-related regression or weakness, exercise can offer a fun reversal of this weakness—a traveling up the slope. Who wouldn’t want to keep having fun into their 80’s and 90’s?
Muscle weakness leads directly to functional decline, increase in falls, reduction of activity level and participation in enjoyable activities, and decreased quality of life. Deconditioned people walk more slowly, have more falls, complain of shortness of breath with walking, and have more difficulty rising from chairs or couches.
Additionally, chronic health conditions or acute injuries which cause periods of decreased activity or sedentary lifestyle will accelerate the aging process by increasing the rate of muscular weakness. For every one week of bedrest during illness or hospitalization, 3 months of regular activity are required to regain the strength lost during that period of hospitalization!
Thankfully, no matter where you are currently, with an appropriate exercise program performed at an effective intensity and frequency, you can improve your place on the graph!
A great testament promoting an increase in exercise, Dr. John E. Morley, MB, BCh, wrote in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association:
Exercise is a cornerstone in increasing strength and balance and decreasing falls, improving functional decline and frailty, improving mobility in Parkinson’s patients, reducing injuries, improving glycemic regulation, slowing loss of bone mineral density, constipation, fear of falling, enhanced sleep, quality of life, and decreasing incontinence.
Though healthy individuals naturally lose about 2-3% of their strength each year after the age of 50, regular exercise and activity will help to reverse strength loss so that most people can remain active and healthy individuals. Wouldn’t you like to consistently have enough energy to do what you have to do every day (get out of bed, shower, get dressed, cook breakfast), and also have enough energy remaining to leave your home, visit with friends, go to a show?
In a future month, we will touch on some of the incredible benefits of exercise, but until then…
- Healthy people lose about 3% of strength per year
- One week of bed rest requires 3 months of activity to regain lost strength
- Exercise performed at a moderate to high intensity can help reverse the natural weakening associated with age
- People at any age and at any stage along the slope can improve their strength, and thus improve their ability to participate in enjoyable activities
- No one is too old to exercise!
- Physical and occupational therapists specialize in assessing strength and ability and are the health professionals best able to develop an appropriate exercise program for seniors
Yours in health,
Matthew Schmidt, PT, DPT, Cert. DN
FOL Rehab Director – Mansions Alpharetta