Aging and Exercise: What You Need to Know to Stay Fit
Is it possible, like fine wine, to get better with age? In some ways, by staying healthy and remaining active, we can. In fact, studies show that older people who maintain active lifestyles that include exercise experience fewer health problems as they age.
How Aging Affects Your Body
The progression of aging and its effects on how we function differ widely among individuals. Over the course of time, the normal aging of tissue causes changes to the anatomy. This is especially true in degenerative changes of the spine. In most people, these changes are gradual. In fact, many people have degenerative changes and don’t know it. They may only become aware of these changes when being examined during a routine check-up.
Degeneration of the spine is complex and often unpredictable. Changes in the anatomy as a result of aging affect the structure and the function of the spine. They may appear in one specific part of the spine (segmentally), in a region of the spine (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar), or throughout the spine (globally). When degenerative changes occur in the joints, accompanied by pain and swelling, it is referred to as osteoarthritis. Other degenerative conditions that affect the spine include:
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
The good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid or reduce your risk of suffering from back pain as you get older. The most important thing you can do is to keep your spine and the rest of your body healthy through exercise. Regular check-ups with your doctor are also important.
How Exercise Helps
Here are the facts:
- Most older adults don't get enough physical activity.
- Lack of physical activity and poor diet combined are the second largest underlying cause of death in the United States (after smoking).
- Exercise can help older people feel better and enjoy life more, even those who think they're too old or out of shape.
- Regular exercise can improve some diseases and disabilities in older people who already have them. It can improve mood and relieve depression, too.
- Staying physically active can help prevent or delay certain diseases (like degenerative spinal disorders) and disabilities as people grow older.