If you take a stroll in the downtown core of Victoria, British Columbia, you will notice a few things: beautiful scenery, buskers performing near the ocean, and an aging population. Along with the benefits of aging, such as wisdom and perspective, there can be some unwelcome changes like Osteoporosis and mobility issues. We know that exercise is a key factor in mitigating the effects of aging, and a balanced approach to exercise and health is a sure fire way to keep yourself feeling young and able as long as possible. “In order for our aging population to continue to pursue activities that keep them fulfilled and active, a freedom of movement and function is necessary.” We know that exercise is important for the aging population, and we know why, but the how is the hardest part of the equation.
For someone over the age of 50 the word “Osteoporosis” is something that commonly surfaces during casual conversation. It has been reported that “1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men suffer from Osteoporosis”. Osteoporosis may occur as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiencies in Vitamin D or Calcium, and results in bones becoming brittle and more fragile due to the loss of bone mass or tissues. The most common result of Osteoporosis is fractures which usually occur in the hip, spine, wrist, or shoulder. These fractures are “more common than heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined” (Osteoporosis Canada, 2017). Exercise is important to help build muscular strength, however; there are a myriad of other reasons that exercise is important for those who have Osteoporosis. Functional exercises that focus on stability and balance are vital for preventing falls. Increasing balance and coordination can help limit the chances of falls in everyday life. Functional fitness including weight bearing exercises can help to prevent bone loss as we age, and also help to protect the back by strengthening the core and spinal muscles (Osteoporosis Canada, 2017). Many functional exercises mimic everyday activities such as bending, lifting, moving, and putting down. This type of exercise is important because it helps to improve muscle patterning so that when we engage in those types of activities in our daily lives, our muscular structure is ready and able to handle it. Functional fitness helps to ward off the effects of Osteoporosis and may decrease the chances of obtaining the bone disease.
Being able to move freely in life is something many of us take for granted. However, mobility is something that the Canadian Institute of Health Research is taking seriously and is continuing to research as our aging population continues to suffer from decreased mobility. Exercise - whether on a chair, on a bike, or standing - is one way to maintain mobility in all areas of the body. Exercises that focus on range of motion and flexibility are especially helpful tools to keep all of the joints lubricated and mobile. Exercise such as yoga and stretch therapy can help to release tension built up in the fascia. John McPhee explains that fascia is the “network of fibrous tissue that covers our muscles and joints”, and can be the cause of stiff shoulders and hips. At Livfit Studio, we have combined stretch release therapy techniques with yoga. This class has been really well received and already, in just a few months, we are hearing from many clients who have noticed improvements in their range of motion, flexibility, and even their golf swing! Using gentle stretching postures from yoga combined with the stretch release therapy techniques has resulted in a class that extends, lengthens, and releases tight, immobile muscles. Making sure that the muscular structures of the body are supported, as well as improving the joint’s range of motion, is a sure way to increase mobility during the aging process.
As our lives become increasingly sedentary through the use of technology, it is even more important to utilize functional fitness and mobility exercises to keep the body functioning at it’s highest potential. The life expectancy in the Western world is continuing to increase and it is projected that by 2040 the life expectancy for males will be 75 and females 83 years old. It is even more important now, as we continue to live longer, that we make the most of our older years. One way to ensure a healthy and balanced life is to increase function by integrating functional fitness and stretching exercises into our lives.