Regular exercise is vital when it comes to reducing mobility issues and the risk of osteoporosis. Here an expert discusses the best form of exercise to reduce the risk of serious falls and weakened bones
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Around 13% of adults aged 70 years and older have mobility issues, according to data from the US and EU.
Mobility issues are sometimes linked to poor quality of life, raise the risk of hospital admissions or residential care, and death, as well as lead to greater healthcare costs.
People with osteoporosis are also at risk for decreased mobility because their bones are susceptible to fractures. These mobility issues significantly increase the risk of serious falls which could be life-threatening or further exacerbate any pre-existing joint issues.
Fortunately, following a programme of regular exercise along with expert dietary advice has been linked to a reduction in mobility problems among frail older people. This was found in a new trial published by The BMJ.
The research found that a combination of aerobics (walking), strength, flexibility, and balance exercises help to reduce mobility disability by 22% over three years.
Their findings are based on 1,519 men and women (average age 79 years) with physical frailty and sarcopenia (a combination of reduced physical function and low muscle mass) recruited from 16 clinical sites across 11 European countries between the period of 2016 and 2019.
Osteoporosis is a major cause of disability particularly among older women.
It is described by Mayo Clinic as: “A bone-weakening disorder, osteoporosis often results in fractures in the hip and spine — which can severely impair your mobility and independence.”
Katie Knapton, CEO and Founder PhysioFastonline said: “Exercise is vital to maintain joint range of movement (motion is lotion) and muscle strength.
“Just being ‘busy’ does not cut the mustard especially as we get older.
“It has been shown that people tend to lose 30% of their muscle strength between 50 and 70 years with another 30% of what is left every decade beyond that.
“This decline is not thought to be written in stone but due to adoption of a more sedentary lifestyle and reduced muscle loading.”
When asked how a sedentary lifestyle impacts the body, Knapton answered: “If the body is not moving at all, for example, you are bed bound with an illness this will result in de-conditioning with muscle atrophy (loss of muscle mass) and the joints can stiffen.
“We can actually lose a significant amount of muscle strength in a relatively short period of time approximately 12% in week.
“There will also be an element of bone weakening which if significant can lead to osteoporosis.
“Muscle atrophy has also been noted within 72 hours of immobilisation.”
Further discussing how this could impact the older generation, Knapton warned how sarcopenia (fast muscle loss), frailty and increased risk of falls could be a sad reality for many.
“If you are not at all physically active you are more vulnerable to many diseases for example you are more likely to have Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, falls and are much more likely to suffer from joint and back pain,” she warned.
“This has not covered the increased risk of mental health issues too.”
How to improve mobility in the elderly
When it comes to the best type of exercises to improve mobility and reduce the risk of serious falls among the elderly, Knapton’s tips include:
- Sit to stand/squats ten times strengthens all your muscles in your lower limb (can also be a good test to see how many you can do in 30secs)
- Heel raises- holding onto back of chair and go up onto toes repeat x10- good for balance and calf strength-can be progressed to one leg if able
- Heel to toe walking- initially holding on – great for balance work
- One leg stand- hold onto support lightly and try and hold for 10
- Lunges and resistance work, depending on ability.