This year, 2012, marks the 'European Year for Active Ageing'; an initiative set up by the European Union to recognise the increasing ageing population, and to raise awareness of the contribution that the older generation makes to society. The European Year encourages 'active ageing' with emphasis placed on the maintenance of good health and wellbeing, and an active, independent lifestyle, fully integrated and incorporated into the wider society.
In recognition of this initiative, and as part of Chiropractic Awareness Week (16th to 20th April), we chiropractors have done a bit of consumer research*, the results of which highlight the need for action and attention, whatever your age, shape or size:
- One in five (20%) aged 55 and over are most worried about becoming less active as they age.
- 48% of over 55’s admit that they are a lot less active than 20 years ago.
- 51% of over 55 year olds are currently suffering from back or neck pain with 33% of those complaining that they suffer daily and 24% stating they have endured some kind of back or neck complaint for more than 10 years.
*conducted by the British Chiropractic Association, February 2012.
However, despite our concerns, we can do something about it! Like a car, or any well-oiled machine, keep the body moving gently on a daily basis and it'll generally keep going for longer. Remaining active as we grow older is vital for our overall wellbeing and continued health, and a few simple steps can be taken to help preserve your back and posture for years to come:
- Stay as active as you can within your physical limitations - but check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise regime to make sure it won't interfere with any existing condition or medication.
- Some exercises that may seem daunting or only for the very fit may, in fact, be perfect in allowing you to maintain fitness and mobility if done at a ‘lower’ level. Adding just a few minutes of exercise or stretches to your daily routine could be of benefit - even just a few shoulder shrugs or gentle knee lifts can help to loosen up the joints! Or just try to be a bit more active generally; walk to the shops, take the stairs rather than the lift, walk a little faster than normal to 'boost' your exercise routine. Any exercise is better than none!
- Walking is a great way to stay active and the benefits are underestimated. It is less strenuous on the joints than other forms of exercise but is weight bearing and so can help maintain bone density too.
- Swimming is a good alternative to keep the joints supple and mobile - particularly if other 'weight bearing' forms of exercise are too painful. The water will help to support the body, so have a look for a swimming session or 'water aerobics' class at the local pool. Cycling, or an exercise bike, can also be good.
- A moving joint is likely to be less painful than a static joint, so even simple movement, stretches or gentle exercises could help relieve pain. Think of a rusty hinge - keep it moving on a daily basis and it'll work pretty well. If you don't move it at all, it'll seize up completely, and then require much more effort to get it moving!
- Promoting core strength and positive posture by doing StraightenUpUK – a series of simple stretches and exercises is a great idea. Or find a local exercise class that promotes balance and core stability - local Age Well groups have several exercise classes, or Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates are also excellent at maintaining the strength, posture and balance of the body.