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Modulating Age-related Decline in Musculoskeletal System

  • Published: 2014-09-01 : American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org).
  • Synopsis: Being physically active may significantly improve musculoskeletal and overall health, and minimize or delay the effects of aging.

Main Document

Quote: "Regimens must be individualized for older adults according to their baseline level of conditioning and disability, and be instituted gradually and safely, particularly for elderly and poorly conditioned adults."

Lifetime of fitness: A fountain of youth for bone and joint health? Ongoing, comprehensive fitness and nutrition regimens may prevent bone and muscle deterioration, injury and disease.

Being physically active may significantly improve musculoskeletal and overall health, and minimize or delay the effects of aging, according to a review of the latest research on senior athletes (ages 65 and up) appearing in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS).

It long has been assumed that aging causes an inevitable deterioration of the body and its ability to function, as well as increased rates of related injuries such as sprains, strains and fractures; diseases, such as obesity and diabetes; and osteoarthritis and other bone and joint conditions. However, recent research on senior, elite athletes suggests usage of comprehensive fitness and nutrition routines helps minimize bone and joint health decline and maintain overall physical health.

"An increasing amount of evidence demonstrates that we can modulate age-related decline in the musculoskeletal system," said lead study author and orthopaedic surgeon Bryan G. Vopat, MD. "A lot of the deterioration we see with aging can be attributed to a more sedentary lifestyle instead of aging itself."

The positive effects of physical activity on maintaining bone density, muscle mass, ligament and tendon function, and cartilage volume are keys to optimal physical function and health. In addition, the literature recommends a combined physical activity regimen for all adults encompassing resistance, endurance, flexibility and balance training, "as safely allowable for a given person." Among the recommendations:

The study also recommends "proper" nutrition for older, active adults to optimize performance. For senior athletes, a daily protein intake of 1.0 to 1.5 g/kg is recommended, as well as carbohydrate consumption of 6 to 8 g/kg (more than 8 g/kg in the days leading up to an endurance event).

"Regimens must be individualized for older adults according to their baseline level of conditioning and disability, and be instituted gradually and safely, particularly for elderly and poorly conditioned adults," said Dr. Vopat. According to study authors, to improve fitness levels and minimize bone and joint health decline, when safely allowable, patients should be encouraged to continually exceed the minimum exercise recommendations.

Orthopaedic surgeons restore mobility and reduce pain; they help people get back to work and to independent, productive lives. Visit ANationInMotion.org to read successful orthopaedic stories.

J Am Acad Orthop Surg 2014; 22: 576-585 dx.doi.org/10.5435/JAAOS-22-09-576

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