Article by Anne Elliott
“You’re only are old as you think you are”, we are often told to believe, and although it has been shown that in old age if you think you are incapable you become incapable, there is most definitely a physiological ageing process happening and is already in motion in early middle age.
In a healthy adult, by the age of 60 these reductions in functionality are perfectly normal:
Strength down 1-2%pa
Power down 3-4% pa
Bone density 1-3% pa in women
Ligament tensile strength down 50% by age 60
VO2Max (Lung function) 1% pa
Nervous system functionality down 37% by age 60
Of course some people will be better and others worse than these figures especially if they have a chronic condition. What is important in light of these bald facts, is that it is easy to understand how vulnerable we all become to injury. If we look further along the life course, falls become one of the major problems of old age The EHLASS report showed that 1 in 3 will suffer a major fall injury with associated problems from the ages of 65-80 and it becomes 1 in 2 over age 80. Such traumas in old age can incapacitate patients in the long term. This is a future no one would want.
Your 50s is a great time to do a body audit
Now is a great time to do a body audit. It’s a simple process and doesn’t need expensive equipment or specialists; Just you, your body, a dose of common sense and honestly.
We know we really aren’t as physically able as we were at 20 as anyone who has tried to play with young children will know. However, we need to be able to partake in our ‘activities of daily living’, (ADL’s) whatever they might be, easily and effectively. We can break down our functionality into different areas:
For each category ask yourself:
Am I ‘flexible’ enough to do all the things I want to do easily and effectively.
If the answer is yes, then well done you, keep going. However, if you find yourself thinking things like ‘bending to put my socks on is getting harder’ or ‘getting out of the car is beginning to be a problem’, my tennis serve isn’t so good because I can’t twist so much’, then list your problems for this category, then move on to the next category and so on.
You should have a list of ADL’s broken down into fitness categories. Now you should see your strengths and weaknesses and this will help you choose the most appropriate type of exercise for you to focus on.
If your list is a bit dramatic and shows major areas of weakness, it might be a good idea to show the list to your doctor and discuss option with them. Management of any underlying problems now can save years of pain and keep you moving and enjoying your life.