The Secret to Stronger Bones in Seniors
Studies show that seniors who exercise regularly reduce their risks of falling and improve their bone strength. It takes a combination of weight training, balance exercises and good nutrition. Together, these habits can have physical and psychological effects that improve a senior’s overall health.
Falls are a leading cause of injury in seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of seniors fall each year. Those falls can lead to severe hip fractures, head trauma and even death. Further, seniors who’ve suffered falls become more fearful of falling. So they limit their activity level, which only worsens the problem.
Fortunately, falls are preventable, especially for seniors who exercise.
Seniors Who Exercise Fall Less
Reuters, French researchers have found that seniors who exercise are 37 percent less likely to get injured in a fall.
Additionally, seniors who exercise reduce their chances of fall-related broken bones by 61 percent. And they’re less likely to end up in the hospital due to a fall. That’s reassuring news because the CDC reports that nearly 700,000 seniors who suffer nonfatal, fall-related injuries are hospitalized annually.
How Bones Change With Age
Bone density decreases with age as bones lose calcium and minerals. The spine can become curved, and bone spurs can develop on the vertebrae. Some seniors might lose height because the trunk and spine shorten. Overall, bones can become more brittle and break more easily.
All of these changes impact not only strength but balance and flexibility.
How Seniors Who Exercise Improve Bone Strength
Weight-bearing exercise helps reduce bone loss. Following a regular exercise program, seniors also improve muscle tone and stamina. Seniors who exercise can react more quickly in case of a fall. And their bodies are better equipped to handle the impact if they don’t catch themselves in time.
In addition to bone density, vision or sense of touch may deteriorate with age. So balance training becomes essential as seniors get older. The CDC reports that senior women who perform strength and balance exercises on a regular basis are 40 percent less likely to fall.
What Exercises Work Best
Exercises that put strain or stress on the bones help retain (and even build) bone density. These weight-bearing exercises include:
Seniors who exercise at a gym may find classes designed for their age group that incorporate weight-bearing exercises into the routine.
To improve balance, yoga, Tai Chi and similar practices can make a significant difference. Plus, these activities improve flexibility, coordination and strength, all of which contribute to fall prevention and ease other age-related conditions, such as arthritis.
How Good Nutrition Helps
Of course, seniors who exercise still need to get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals to promote bone strength. Vitamin D, calcium and vitamin K are essential. Milk and other dairy products are good sources of vitamin D and calcium. Supplements can also be a good choice.
For vitamin K, which helps in regulating calcium and bone formation, seniors can look to green, leafy vegetables. One or more servings of foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale or similar vegetables should suffice.
Nutrition needs will vary between men and women. If you have questions about your diet or nutrition needs, talk to your doctor.
Seniors Who Exercise Improve Their Quality of Life
Getting the right kind of exercise helps prevent injury. But it also leads to healthier habits and fewer illnesses, and it’s a chance to socialize. Working out is always a little more fun in a group. And friends can hold a person accountable, helping make exercise a routine that’s shared.
How has exercise made a difference in the bone health of a senior you know?
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