I was recently asked, what issues I see the most in older clients. I thought about it for a second and said, “Joints. Issues with joints, especially shoulders, hips, and knees.” Let's talk about keeping the lower body strong and injury-free!
As we age, there are physical changes in our body which affect our muscle strength, resulting in a strength decrease of between 3 and 15% per decade after 30 years old. Here are some of the changes:
- Free radical damage within the muscle cells affects the calcium in our muscles, which is important for muscle contraction.
- Declining hormones decrease muscle mass and strength.
- Arteries become stiffer and less flexible leading to a decrease in circulation.
- The cartilage that pads our joints becomes thinner with age and injury.
These physical changes often are on top of us becoming more sedentary as we age, giving up activities that previously gave us pleasure and built muscle like skiing, tennis, and soccer. As we move our body less, our circulation decreases and our joints become stiff because it is movement that moves synovial fluid through the joints, in effect, oiling them. There are also medical causes of weaker muscles, which I won’t go into in depth here, but you’ll want to be checked out by a doctor if you have sudden muscle weakness in your legs or if you suspect heart disease or diabetes.
Here are a few suggestions that can help keep your lower body strong:
Reduce your sitting time as much as possible. Get a sit to stand desk. It’s an adjustable desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Or try one of the active learning stools that allow you to move around as you sit.
Take up an outdoor activity that uses your legs. Bicycling is the best for your knees.
Ask your doctor for a blood test to check your vitamin D levels. If they are low, spend time in the sun, eat vitamin D rich foods, or take supplements.
Do a leg strengthening workout a few times per week, and be sure to give your muscles 48 hours in between workouts to rest and regenerate. A resistance workout using your body weight as resistance is the best for building muscles in your legs. Even once per week will strengthen your legs. Here’s a good 20-minute workout on YouTube:
Here is a beginner’s workout for strengthening your legs. It’s geared toward seniors, but anyone can benefit especially if you have knee pain and want to start out slowly:
Come in for a massage or acupuncture to increase circulation and rebalance muscle tension so that your muscles are supporting your joint health. Call or text us at (650) 476-6299 to book your session!