Keeping the Spine Healthy as you Age
The population of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to increase rapidly in the near future.1 While it is great news that Australians are living longer lives, there needs to be a focus on improving the quality of life in the golden years.
As we age, we can expect gradual changes in our bodies. It is not uncommon to experience aches and pains but it is important to distinguish between natural changes in the body resulting from old age and pain that is not natural and could be prevented.
The spine changes as we get older. It can lose thickness and elasticity, meaning that we are less able to withstand normal day-to-day strain and can become more vulnerable to both chronic and acute injuries.2
How the body ages depends in part on genetics but lifestyle choices can also have a powerful impact on how well the body copes with old age. It is never too late to start living an active lifestyle and enjoying the benefits. Here are some tips that may help you achieve a healthier, stronger body that can withstand old age.
Regardless of age, a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful to musculoskeletal health and overall wellbeing. Staying active and incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help increase flexibility and mobility. In addition to the physical benefits, exercising can also have a profound impact on mental health and general outlook on life.
Low-impact exercises such as walking, or swimming may be a good way to get started. Regular exercise offers great benefits including better stability, reduced inflammation, improved mobility and much more. Joining group-based activities are also a great option – they offer a chance to socialise, provide motivation and it’s also more fun to exercise with a group!
Before beginning any kind of exercise routine, it is important to seek advice from your chiropractor or other healthcare professional to devise an exercise plan suited to your ability.
Whether it’s a short stroll, a long walk or an exercise program approved by a healthcare professional, staying active can help you stay healthier for longer.
Be mindful of your posture
Don’t disregard the importance of good posture – it keeps the body aligned and helps avoid excessive strain on ligaments and muscles. Good posture can help improve mobility, spinal health and quality of life.
It is never too late to correct poor posture habits. Make it a priority to assess and correct your posture as you go about your day. Rather than slouching or hunching, try your best to keep your spine in a neutral position. It is also advisable to avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods.
It can be difficult to be mindful of your posture all the time so it may be a good idea to set alarms on your mobile phone to remind you. You can also use the Straighten Up app to set posture reminders and receive notifications about sitting right, stretching, taking breaks, drinking water and improving your posture.
Regular stretching can help maintain joint flexibility, improve stability and may also help relieve stiff muscles. It can also help with increasing range of motion but it is important to perform stretches correctly. Consult a healthcare professional to gain a better understanding of how to perform stretches correctly and to find out which stretches are best for you.
Take extra care when doing stretches that may require balancing and be sure to modify stretches to suit your ability level.
Consult a healthcare professional
If you suffer from chronic back pain, spinal health issues or need advice regarding exercise programs or preventative measures, it is advisable to consult your chiropractor for guidance.
1. Growing Older (2015), Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/population-groups/older-people/overview
2. Changes in the Body with Ageing, Merck Manual, Available at: www.merckmanuals.com/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues/the-aging-body/changes-in-the-body-with-aging
To access 14 helpful exercises for Seniors to improve balance and strength. Please click on the link below for the PDF.