By: Dr. Beth Templin
There are three factors that lead to accelerated aging. They are inactivity, illness, and injury, otherwise known as the Triple Whammy of aging.
Each one of these issues can happen individually or simultaneously. To better understand the impacts that each can have on the normal aging process, we first need to understand what "normal" aging actually is.
Senescence refers to the normal biological changes that happen to our body with aging. After we reach 30 years of age, we all experience slow declines, an average of 3% each year. The interesting thing is that these small, gradual changes don't happen fast enough to result in disability or loss of independence.
Instead, these changes contribute to a decreased physiologic reserve. Physiological reserve is what we need to recover from an illness or injury.
As our body loses its physiologic reserve, it's harder to recover from an injury, or fight back against an illness.
Think of it as a tank of gas. When it’s full, it's easy to navigate construction or wait while an accident gets cleared. When your tank is near empty and an unforeseen event happens, you are less likely to reach your destination. Similarly, when you have an abundance of physiologic reserve, you can easily recover from an unplanned illness or injury.
As your physiologic reserve diminishes, you struggle to overcome the same illness or injury. This is why it's important to maintain a good level of physiologic reserve as you age. Interestingly, the loss of our physiologic reserve is accelerated by illness, injury, and inactivity, making it more difficult for us to overcome illness or injury. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of each one.
Inactivity simply refers to not getting the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Inactivity is a risk factor for chronic diseases. Inactivity increases your risk of death and shortens your life span by 3-5 years!!
Living a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to cause frailty and loss of independence sooner in aging adults. Inactivity causes loss of function and mobility, meaning you will be less likely to continue to take care of yourself or loved ones.
Illness is defined as an unhealthy condition of the body. Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer are more common among seniors. We know that people living with chronic illnesses spend enormous amounts of time, money, and energy trying to manage these conditions long-term.
The most common type of injury in the aging population is injury related to falls. Another common way aging adults injure themselves is by trying to lift or move something heavier than they have the strength to do so. We see it happen all the time. As people get weaker with age, a normal daily task can result in pain.
What’s The Solution?
The best thing you can do is to add more physical activity and exercise to your daily life. We know that being more active not only helps you tackle inactivity, but also helps you manage and prevent chronic illnesses as well. Exercise contributes to maintaining and improving your strength and balance, decreasing your risk for injury.
Unsure where to get started? Check out Dr. Kim’s Exercise Of The Month, which will cover strength, balance, and endurance all in one activity!
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.