It’s true that our bones tend to lose strength as we get older. But even in later years there is plenty we can do to slow down bone loss and avoid the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
In general our activity levels tend to drop as we get older. You may feel you don’t have the energy to exercise or that you may harm yourself in some way. Physical problems like stiff, painful joints can also make us less inclined to be active.
The problem is that being inactive makes your muscles and bones lose strength. This increases your risk of osteoporosis, falls and fractures. By staying active you can significantly lower your risk of breaking a bone.
Doing something is always better than doing nothing. But for optimum health, it’s recommended that people over 65 get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, every week.
With moderate-intensity activities you will get warmer, breathe harder and your heart will beat faster, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation. Examples include a round of golf with friends, doing some gardening, or taking the dog for a walk.
Muscle strength is vital for improving your balance and staying independent and mobile in later years. It’s recommended that people over the age of 65 do activities to improve muscle strength at least twice a week. This could include dancing, carrying groceries, going up and down stairs, or exercising to music – in fact, anything that challenges your muscles.
It’s also a good idea to do activities to improve balance and co-ordination twice a week as this can reduce your risk of falling. Things such as yoga or tai chi are best for this. These types of activity can also ease stiffness and unsteadiness associated with painful joints.
Another important tip for over 65s is to avoid sitting around for long periods. As well as reducing muscle and bone strength, this can make joints feel stiffer and so increase the risk of falls. If you find you have been sitting for more than about 20-30 minutes, get up and go for a stroll.
Physical problems, such as painful joints, needn’t prevent you from being active. Classes are available for people who are older or who have underlying health conditions, such as heart disease or arthritis.