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Regular Exercise May Help to Reduce Age-Related Bone Injury

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Scott Sexton, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

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If you think the golden years are a time to sit back and relax, think again. Too much leisure time that involves sitting (and other sedentary activities) may weaken your bones and leave you at risk for traumatic injury.

To preserve your health during the “golden” season of life, it’s important to stay active. Regular exercise will improve your overall health, and weight-bearing exercise will strengthen your bones.

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) orthopedic surgeon Scott Sexton, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, knows how traumatic injuries can negatively impact quality of life for older adults. That’s why he recommends maintaining an active lifestyle at every age.

“You’re never too old to start exercising,” Sexton says. “Falls are scary. They also may result in breaks and fractures, which are hard on older adults.”

Falls can happen as the result of balance problems or side effects from medication. Older people also are susceptible to slips and falls during bad weather and when bathing. When osteoporosis is present, a little fall can have a big impact.

“Weakened bones are more susceptible to breaks and fractures,” Sexton says. “Low-impact exercises like walking, yoga and Tai Chi help maintain bone strength, balance and coordination.”

Osteoporosis causes bones to thin, and it erodes supporting bone tissue. It is more likely to occur in white and Asian women, but men and people with low body weight are susceptible too. To help minimize the risk for osteoporosis, older people should stay active by doing weight-bearing exercises and getting enough calcium.

Besides strengthening your bones, exercise also may improve your balance, stamina, appetite and reduce symptoms of depression and sleep disturbances. Lifting light weights is appropriate for older adults (do so while seated for extra stability).

“As an orthopedic trauma provider I see multiple traumas in the elderly population,” Sexton says. “Exercise slows the natural process of bone loss and helps preserve strength.”

To reduce your risk of injury due to falls, follow these tips from Sexton:

  • Get up and walk every day. You’ll maintain your fitness, coordination and balance, and lower your risk for falls.
  • Get fitted for the proper footwear. Different activities call for different types.
  • Remove area rugs that cause a slip or trip hazard.
  • Remove objects from the floor that are a trip risk. Ask a family member for help if you need it.
  • Buy a shower seat and use it while bathing to prevent falls. The bathroom is the most injury-prone room in the house.
  • Install grab bars in the toilet and shower areas or anywhere you may need extra stability.
  • Increase your calcium intake to 1,200 mg daily.
  • Get adequate vitamin D from sunlight or food. Your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. Get it from sunlight or foods like milk, yogurt, broccoli, bok choy, spinach, salmon with bones, tofu, almonds and other fortified foods.