By Joan Ebsworth, guest writer for sense*, biologist and mother of sense* Founder, Jonathan on Moving in your 80s. Crucial to prevent muscle wastage, losing bone density and, more importantly, keeping independence.
Moving in your 80s is crucial
Of course “moving in your 80s “is extremely important but moving at any age is equally important.
Why? Well, it is all about maintaining muscle mass.
We all know that muscles enable us to move our limbs (amongst other things) and we all take that for granted when we are younger.
Moving more painful in 80s
As we get older then we don’t take it so much for granted as we notice that movement becomes more difficult and often quite painful.
Muscle mass important in 30s and 40s
Believe it or believe it not but we begin to lose muscle mass in our late 30s and early 40s. It happens naturally and it has a name –it is called sarcopenia.
Unless we do something about it there will be a constant progression into old age.
We all know of elderly people who are finding it difficult to move. Be it getting up out of a chair or bending over to pick something up.
Wasting away doesn’t need to be part of getting old
They seem to be wasting away and disappearing before our very eyes. We just accept it as a part of getting old.
Happily it need not be that way!
My Muscle Wasting episode
I suffered extreme muscle wastage 42 years ago at the age of 40. I had a displaced 5th lumbar disc (a slipped disc).
I reckon caused by extremely high heeled shoes and the carrying of heavy weights (e.g. boxes of books since I was a school teacher).
The disc (5th lumbar) was pressing on my sciatic nerve and I quite literally could not walk without excruciating pain.
Bed rest for long periods is wrong
Back then in the 70s the treatment was bed rest! Wrong!
I lay in bed for 3 whole months before the issue was addressed. I lost a stone in weight – my body muscles just wasted away.
They had to stretcher me to a hospital in Oxford and a neurosurgeon removed the disc. A day later I was able to stand without pain and 48 hours later I started to walk.
Keep on moving
I walked those hospital corridors to such an extent that they told my husband to carry in my outdoor clothes and I was allowed to go out and walk the streets of Oxford.
No idea why they didn’t just send me home!
I really thought that I would never bend my knees again –the pain was awful.
In time that recovered. They taught me body management and they warned me that I would have arthritis in my lower back by the age of 60.
That hasn’t happened thank goodness.
Don’t give up sport
In retrospect– maybe I was stupid to give up playing squash and skiing after the surgery –but we can all be wise with hindsight.
However –at that point –I vowed never to stop walking and that included mountain walking too. I was just 40.
Start of Osteoporosis
Later in my 60s I was to discover that I also had osteoporosis – again caused by that 3 months lying in bed. Osteoporosis is caused by lack of bone density and particularly prevalent in women as they get older.
Bone density can be improved by stressing the bones to a relatively small degree. You don’t have to do anything drastic just walk or run.
It is impact that counts
Preferably not in those modern trainers with huge cushions in the sole. These do no good at all. It is the impact that counts.
So something with a normal flat sole or a walking shoe or boot but for many years I just used flat, leather sandals.
Bone hardening drugs not the solution
And a note of caution. Many doctors will prescribe bone hardening drugs but like so many drugs these are a short-term solution only. They do not strengthen your bones. Long term use will make them hard, but also brittle and subject to breaks when falling.
By the end of my 60s I conquered osteoporosis too! Just by walking.
Why muscle wastage such a concern
I mentioned sarcopenia (muscle wastage). Why is sarcopenia a huge concern?
Well –it has other health implications apart from affecting our quality of life.
No movement causes metabolism slow-down
The reduction in movement and the resultant reduction in metabolism that it causes, can make many people eat more of the wrong foods. Poor carbohydrate and processed foods are the culprits and many people have become obese.
That can be a case of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Hypertension can ensue plus increases in blood triglycerides.
All of which is not good news.
Breaking bones in old age
Then there is the risk of falling and breaking bones. Lack of bone density (osteoporosis) causes your bones to become more brittle.
Lack of muscle mass causes old people to lose balance or trip over. We know the all too common story of broken bones from a fall. Often you never recover.
Why put yourself at risk?
What can be done to prevent and reverse these issues? The answer is a LOT but you need to start in your 30s, 40s and 50s! Although that doesn’t mean you can’t reverse it in your 60s 70s and possible 80s (it just becomes harder and harder).
What are the changes you need to make
You won’t be surprised to hear what’s involved in moving in your 80s:
Movement is first
Exercise cannot be stressed enough . I walk 10,000 steps a day most days. That is not enough and I am working at increasing my regimen to include use of weights and resistance exercises.
Weight training in my 80s
My osteoporosis seemed to disappear after carrying two bags of my groceries from my local supermarket every day for many years. That was weight training but fitted into every day life!
I now carry a can of soup or beans in each hand as part of my walking. This is now how I train with a small weight. Carrying them and moving my arms in an exaggerated fashion when walking.
I do Pilate’s to strengthen my core muscles and I still manage my house and garden. Anything to keep moving.
I am so grateful that I can still do those things. For me –the quality of my life is so much more important than longevity.
Your muscles need protein and when moving in your 80s you need to increase the amount. I find this difficult as a vegan/vegetarian and it is something that I have neglected but which I am now addressing.
I now know how many grams of protein (25-30g per day) I should be having. And I know roughly which foods I need to eat and the amount of protein that each serving contains.
I will eat eggs if they are free range and eat organic food.
So this morning I had 3 eggs (18g protein) plus half an avocado and a thick sauce made of many vegetables which I blitzed in the blender. Like very thick soup. Bet you can’t wait to try some of that😊
I need to make that 18g up to 25 or 30g per day with my second meal of the day. I shall be using tempeh (which is fermented soybeans), in a curry.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet also helps. As can reducing industrialised or processed foods. Inflammation is a killer and so under diagnosed by the medical profession.
It is also crucial when moving in your 80s to avoid getting too many aches and pains.
Again, if you are not getting enough anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits particularly berries, nuts (almonds/walnuts), leafy greens (collard/kale/spinach), tomatoes, fatty fish (sardines, salmon & mackerel) and olive oil, then you may need a supplement.
The combination of MSM and Boswellia is particularly anti-inflammatory.
And remember fried foods, processed carbohydrates, white bread and pasties, red meat, fizzy drinks and margarine, all cause inflammation so avoid if you can.
Micronutrients and supplements
Yes –they are very important –and calcium springs to mind which is in the sense* for joint & bone product, I believe.
We are told that dairy products are vital. Well, this is a myth marketed by the dairy industry. The calcium in dairy is not readily absorbable so you should try and get it from elsewhere. This makes it difficult.
There is calcium in many, many plant foods including:
- nuts and seeds (flaxseed),
- dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, kale, bok choy and broccoli)
- fruit such as figs, kiwifruit, tangerines and oranges,
- tempeh or other soybean products
- also other legumes such as beans, peas and lentils,
- grains in the following order : amaranth, quinoa, oats, barley, rye, and whole wheat
- seafood such as sardines, salmon, clams
- fortified foods such as non dairy milk, oatmeal, orange juice
So with a varied diet it soon adds up. Although you need between 1,000-1,200mg per day depending on your age and if you are male or female.
But certain medical conditions increase this because of absorption issues. Any doubt and you should consult your doctor.
Magnesium is so important and I supplement separately with 400mg a day as it helps with almost 300 chemical reactions in the body including aiding calcium absorption .
But if you have any processed food or rely heavily on dairy then you will have to supplement your diet. If so, then I suggest a single calcium supplement or with magnesium because they are both quite bulky so multivitamins like sense* often won’t have enough.
Vitamin D and K2
I also supplement separately with vitamin D3 even though I live in a sunny climate. Good for bones and for immunity. Also vitamin K2 and quite a few other things.
Supplements are needed today
Why? Because our foods are so depleted of essential nutrients these days even though I buy as many organic products as I can. The soil just does not contain them anymore.
You can see the results in the disease that permeates society. Lack of proper nutrition and in particular, micro-nutrients will catch up with you in the end.
I suggest you also seek out a specialist multivitamin that gives you these vital micro-nutrients or take them individually as I do.
That said I have just ordered 6 packets of the sense* for joint & bone superfood supplement formula so watch this space! I am going to try it out.
Other lifestyle factors
I am sure that there are many other factors that come into play in the development of sarcopenia. But if these 3 alone were implemented then I know, from personal experience , that they can do an amazing amount to keep it at bay.
Moving in your 80s is crucial though.
They say that hormone systems, a reduction of alcohol intake, stopping smoking, can all influence the body metabolism in a good way. But movement is crucial
So as individuals we may have to make lifestyle changes but I take the view that if it gives quality of life, allows me to live independently, think clearly and have a good memory, read incessantly (and watch the odd soap opera:) –then it is well worth it.
Good luck with your health and well-being.
This is not a sense* article. The views expressed in this article are those of the author so there may be opinions or statements in this article that are not approved by sense* and do not represent the views and opinions of the company.