Australia has an ageing population as our life expectancy continues to increase. Those aged over 65 are termed ‘older Australians’ and while this demographic currently makes up 15% of the population, this looks to increase to 22% by 2056.¹
As we age, we can expect gradual changes in our bodies. Older Australians are generally quite healthy and enjoy good quality of life but the data shows that as we age, we are more likely to experience musculoskeletal issues. 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
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 well-being. 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.
Only one in three older Australians report being sufficiently active and 72% are overweight or obese.¹ This shows the need for older Australians to be more active and to assess their nutrition.
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 an ACA 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 an ACA chiropractor or other healthcare professional to seek guidance.
‘Positive Ageing’ is the theme for the ACA Annual Conference this year.
For more information on maintaining a healthy spine, please visit the website of the Australian Chiropractors Association (ACA) at www.chiropractors.asn.au
¹Older Australia at a glance, 2017, AIHW (online). Available at www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australia-at-a-glance/contents/demographics-of-older-australians/australia-s-changing-age-and-gender-profile
²Changes 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