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Physical changes due to aging and how to overcome them - Ralph Weinstein and Tim Rankin

The privilege of growing old comes with a number of physical changes. How we confront these changes plays a huge roll in our health, fitness, and functional abilities as we age.

As we get older and our bones and musculature change, our joints become stiffer and less flexible. It is common to have fluid in the joints or lose cartilage, which are referred to as degenerative changes. Hip, knee and finger joints are common problem areas. Sometimes, these problems can be inherited. Joint changes can lead to pain, inflammation, and even deformity. Some people may develop a stooped posture.

While the joints are getting stiffer most people experience a decrease in lean body mass. This can be caused by a loss of muscle tissue or atrophy. Sagging, unresponsive facial skin is the result of lost muscle fiber. The appearance of a sunken rib cage, with deep ruts between rib bones, is the result of the loss of the intercostal muscles. The stooped posture many aged people adopt is due to the loss of skeletal muscles, which leads to a loss of support for bones of the spine, shoulders, and back that keep a younger person erect. These unmistakable and dramatic signs of age are known as Sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is a progressive age-related loss of muscle mass and muscle force production (amount of force a muscle can produce). A major contributing factor to muscle loss is a sedentary lifestyle which can cause an aging adult to lose their ability to engage in everyday activities, including walking. Studies indicate the loss of skeletal muscle for the average normal healthy person amounts to approximately 25% between about 30 and 70 years of age. The loss accelerates as aging progresses. Between the ages of 30-40, a person typically loses 8 pounds of muscle which are usually replaced with fat.

Bones tend to become less dense. Loss of bone density is Osteoporosis. With Osteoporosis, bones become weaker and more likely to break. Changes in vertebrae at the top of the spine cause the head to tip forward, compressing the throat. As a result, swallowing is more difficult, and choking is more likely. The vertebrae become less dense and the cushions of tissue (disks) between them lose fluid and become thinner, making the spine shorter. Thus, older people become shorter.

The cartilage that lines the joints tends to thin, partly because of the wear and tear of years of the movement. The surfaces of a joint may not slide over each other as well as they used to, and the joint may be slightly more susceptible to injury. Damage to the cartilage due to lifelong use of joints or repeated injury often leads to Osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common disorders of later life.

Ligaments, which bind joints together, and tendons, which bind muscle to bone, tend to become less elastic, making joints feel tight or stiff. These tissues also weaken. Thus, most people become less flexible. Ligaments tend to tear more easily, and when they tear, they heal more slowly. These changes occur because the cells that maintain ligaments and tendons become less active.

Aging is a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood. During early middle age, many bodily functions begin to gradually decline. Fortunately, there is a means by which we can fight these symptoms of aging. Regular exercise to strengthen muscles (resistance training) can partially overcome or significantly delay loss of muscle mass and strength. Bone loss can be halted and even reversed. Joints can become more flexible by strengthening the surrounding muscle. Posture can be maintained and even improved. Ability to perform every day tasks as well as recreation can be increased dramatically. The focused personal training at Total Results is the safest and most effective way to battle the forces of aging.

Posted January 25, 2019 by Tim Rankin