Bone and joint health begins in childhood, when physical activity, calcium intake and rapid growth spurts begin to shape our musculoskeletal development. And while starting to focus on bone and joint health early on helps us maintain strong bones and elastic, healthy joints later in life, seniors still need to pay attention to their bone and joint health — whether or not they have in the past.
Cartilage and muscle mass diminish with age, and the effects of old or new injuries often take a greater toll on an aging body. Weight gain, age-related hormonal changes and menopause can further affect the bone and joint health of seniors.
Though lost cartilage and bone mass can never be fully regrown, what’s left can still be protected. There are several steps seniors can take to reduce further loss, as well as wear and tear, pain and discomfort. As an added bonus, these steps will contribute to seniors’ overall health and well-being:
Exercise regularly. And pay attention to what types of exercise you do. Aerobic exercise like walking, dancing or running can reduce joint swelling and help you shed excess weight initially — for seniors with joint inflammation or pain, low-impact aerobic exercise like swimming or biking is a good idea. Strength training is also important for seniors. Lifting weights strengthens the muscles and surrounding joints, helping protect them from damage, and keeps excess weight off. A good rule of thumb is to engage is aerobic activity twice a week and strength training twice a week. Stretching exercises should be used after any type of activity to help reduce soreness and improve range of motion.
Focus on nutrition. Vitamin D and calcium are the building blocks of bone and joint health, but, unfortunately, modern American diets often lack enough of these vital nutrients. Consider taking supplements to ensure you’re getting enough of these vitamins — your doctor can recommend one best for your needs. You can also work to incorporate more Vitamin D- and calcium-rich foods into your diet.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight takes a toll on the body’s bones and joints, and leads to a slew of other health problems. Losing weight will reduce pressure on your knees, hips and back, alleviating pain and pressure. But remember: what is a healthy weight varies from person to person. Factors like your height, genetics and level of activity will determine what’s healthy for you. Ask a doctor if your weight is in the healthy range, and consider relying on your body max index rather than weight to determine whether or not you’re at a healthy size.
Get regular check-ups. Making regular visits to your doctor will ensure any issues with your bone and joint health are caught as early as possible. Be sure to tell your doctor if any new or worsening bone or joint pain is present. Your doctor will also be able to make sound recommendations for how to best improve your bone and joint health, and can advise you on a safe exercise routine and diet plan.
Our location in midtown Boulder is within minutes of popular hiking trails. Hiking strengthens the bones and joints in your legs, and can help you shed pounds. Some of our favorite senior-friendly hiking trails include the Flatirons Vista Loop, the Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon State Park, and the Canyon Loop at Betasso Preserve.