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Debunking Nine Common Myths About Aging: Prioritizing Movement and Health for a Functionally Vibrant Life

April 04, 2024 10 min read

Debunking Nine Common Myths About Aging: Prioritizing Movement and Health for a Functionally Vibrant Life

As we age, staying functionally fit and active becomes increasingly important for  maintaining our health, wellbeing, and quality of life. However, with age often come misconceptions and myths about what is possible or advisable in terms of exercise and fitness. Fitterfirst, a leading provider of fitness equipment and solutions, aims to debunk these myths and empower individuals to embrace a healthy, active lifestyle at any age. Let's explore common fitness myths about aging and why they shouldn't hold you back.

Myth: Aging means a permanent decline in strength

While our bodies can undergo involuntary muscle loss (sarcopenia) of approximately 3-8% per decade after the age of 30, with a slight increase after the age of 60 (Volpi, Nazemi, & Fujita, 2004). Over time, the body's composition changes as a result of this decrease in muscle mass, and an increase in adipose tissue occurs. A major contributing factor to these physiological changes is a sedentary lifestyle (Wilkinson, Piasecki, & Atherton, 2018), (Volpi, Nazemi, & Fujita, 2004).

Incorporating both cardiovascular and strength based training can mitigate the negative effects that are associated with muscle loss, including an increase in frailty and falling with age (Volpi, Nazemi, & Fujita, 2004) . The earlier an active lifestyle is implemented, the better. In an ideal world, we would always partake in an   active lifestyle that could mitigate these potential physiological changes (Neighmond, 2011). Studies indicate that participating in 20 to 30 minutes of strength (resistance) training, two to three times a week, has been shown to have positive effects on reducing risk factors osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disorders (Mayer et al., 2011). It's never too late to start.

There are safe and effective options, including but not limited to walking, Tai Chi, Pilates, resistance training with weights and bands, and swimming. Always consult a   healthcare practitioner. If you are new to exercise and aren't sure where to start, a kinesiologist or personal trainer could be great resources once you have clearance from your doctor to begin.

Myth: As we age, we don't need as much protein.

One prevalent myth surrounding aging is that our bodies require less protein as we grow older (Chernoff, 2004) . This misconception often leads older adults to neglect their protein intake, potentially compromising their muscle mass, strength, and overall health.

In reality, older adults may actually need more   protein than younger individuals due to age-related changes in metabolism, muscle mass, and protein absorption efficiency (Chernoff, 2004) . As we age, our bodies become less efficient at synthesizing and utilizing protein, making it crucial to consume adequate amounts to support muscle maintenance, repair, and overall health.

Furthermore, older adults may have increased protein needs to counteract age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) and maintain functional independence. Research suggests that consuming higher protein levels can help preserve muscle mass, improve strength, and reduce the risk of falls and fractures in older adults (Wilkinson, Piasecki, & Atherton, 2018).

Failing to meet protein requirements can lead to muscle weakness, frailty, and increased susceptibility to injury and illness (“How Long Does It Take for Older Adults to Build Muscle? | Muscle Building for Seniors,” 2022), (Neighmond, 2011) . Therefore, it's essential for older adults to prioritize protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds in their diet (Chernoff, 2004).

Studies suggest that elderly adults need between 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight compared to 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight which was previously recommended (Baum, Kim, & Wolfe, 2016). Incorporating protein-rich snacks and meals throughout the day, along with regular strength training exercises, can help older adults maintain muscle mass, strength, and overall vitality (Wilkinson, Piasecki, & Atherton, 2018). By debunking the myth that we need less protein as we age, individuals can better support their health and wellbeing as they navigate the aging process.

Myth: Dementia is an inescapable consequence of aging

While dementia poses concerns for many as they age, it's imperative to grasp that it's not an inherent aspect of growing older. Though the risk of dementia rises with age, diabetes, genetics and other factors. Numerous individuals lead fulfilling lives without succumbing to significant cognitive decline (Lin et al., 2013). Occasional forgetfulness is normal and distinct from the hallmark symptoms of dementia. Identifying and addressing any worrisome changes in memory or behavior promptly is pivotal in managing or mitigating potential issues, underscoring the importance of proactive health management.

Getting more than six hours of sleep a night from middle age may be a protective mechanism against dementia (“New Evidence on Sleep’s Role in Aging and Chronic Disease,” n.d.). Partaking in an active lifestyle can help increase blood and oxygen to the brain, bringing more fuel and improving cognition (Douda, 2018). Dietary factors may also come into play as well particularly when it comes to insulin release, and how that can affect the brain, therefore managing it properly could have positive outcomes in preventing and managing dementia (Douda, 2018).

Participating in cognitive tasks including playing interactive video games including those like the   Bobo or Nintendo Wii, can help not only improve physical health it may assist in cognitive improvements including memory as well (Kyriazis & Kiourti, 2018).Hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain. Addressing hearing impairment in older adults can help prevent walking problems, falls, and even dementia (Lin et al., 2013) .

Myth: It's too late to improve flexibility

Flexibility can be improved at any age through consistent stretching and mobility exercises. Exercise can increase the amount of oxygen and blood flow to tendons, which are important in stretching (Mayer et al., 2011). Mobility work is great to add in with other forms of exercise. It is important not to neglect this part of training as it can help maintain functionality including posture, being able to dress independently, and reduce the risk of injury (“How Long Does It Take for Older Adults to Build Muscle? | Muscle Building for Seniors,” 2022).  Stretching and   foam rolling tools are available to assist in support flexibility and joint mobility, helping older adults maintain range of motion and prevent injury.

Myth: Older adults cannot acquire new skills

Our ability to learn does not decrease as we age; in fact, older adults frequently have a wealth of life experience-derived knowledge and insight to draw from. Engaging in novel activities and acquiring new skills has been shown to sharpen cognitive abilities (Wu & Church, 2024) . Hobbies including quilting, photography, pickleball and even playing video games can enhance memory function and cognitive agility in older adults (Kyriazis & Kiourti, 2018). There are interactive gaming systems including   Bobo, or Nintendo Wii which all combine the cognitive benefits of playing video games with balance challenges ranging from beginner to advanced (Kyriazis & Kiourti, 2018). Some of these games can have a social element to them which can not only help with cognition but mood as well.

Myth: Balance can't be improved in older adults

Older Adults balancing on one leg

Balance requires multiple systems in the body to work together to keep us upright in standing, kneeling or sitting (“Body and Brain Are Crucial to Good Balance,” 2021). It is a trainable skill, and exercises focused on stability and proprioception can help older adults reduce their risk of falling. It is important to include cognitive tasks with physical tasks when training balance, they don't need to happen at the same time but both are needed (Douda, 2018).   Foam pads, the Fitterfirst   Active Office Board,   balance boards, interactive gaming systems, like   Bobo Wobbly or   Bobo Home or UprightVR, and stability trainers can all be used to help improve balance and coordination. Exercise, particularly Tai Chi, has great research indicating improvements to balance in multiple populations (“Body and Brain Are Crucial to Good Balance,” 2021). It is a low impact style of exercise making it a great option for everyone. For more information on balance and ideas for   training balance visit our blog.

Myth: Joint pain is inevitable with age

While joint issues may become more common as we age, they are not inevitable. There can be several mechanisms behind joint pain including osteoarthritis (OA).Strength training has been found to not only improve strength, joint stability and function but also reduce joint pain (Latham & Liu, 2010). Exercise, proper nutrition, and maintaining a healthy weight can all contribute to joint health and function (Baum, Kim, & Wolfe, 2016), (Chernoff, 2004). Getting around seven to eight hours of sleep a night can help in pain management (“Aging and Sleep,” 2023). Exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to all tissues, additionally moving the joints can help distribute synovial fluid and hyaluronan around the joint space which can help heal tissues within the joint space (Tamer, 2013). Fitterfirst has a number of products that can help with pain management and reduction including   ergonomic seating and joint-friendly   exercise equipment, support joint health and comfort.

Myth: Depression and loneliness are inevitable with age

Contrary to popular belief, depression and loneliness is not an unavoidable part of aging (Fiske, Loebach Wetherell, & Gatz, 2009). While some may grapple with feelings of isolation, aging can also offer profound emotional rewards, like deeper connections and cherished memories. Research shows that older adults are less prone to depression than younger individuals (Fiske, Loebach Wetherell, & Gatz, 2009). If depression does manifest itself, it's critical to realize that there are effective treatments for it and that it's not an inevitable side effect of getting older. Factors including hearing loss can be a contributing factor as it requires more effort to be able to communicate with others(Lin et al., 2013). Movement and engagement in activities with others can significantly   improve mood and reduce the feeling of loneliness.

Myth: Older adults require less (or more) sleep

The Goldilocks principle comes to play when it comes to sleep. Sleeping too much or too little can increase our chances of mortality with age (“New Evidence on Sleep’s Role in Aging and Chronic Disease,” n.d.) . Sleep patterns may shift forward with age, but the notion that older adults require substantially more or less sleep is unfounded (“Aging and Sleep,” 2023). While challenges like difficulty falling asleep or fragmented rest may arise, the fundamental sleep needs remain consistent across adulthood (“Aging and Sleep,” 2023). Poor sleep can cause biological aging and an increase in cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression (“New Evidence on Sleep’s Role in Aging and Chronic Disease,” n.d.). The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults aged 61 to 64 and 7 to 8 hours for those 65 and older (“How Much Sleep Do I Need?,” 2022).

Addressing sleep disturbances and ensuring a conducive sleep environment are essential for meeting these needs and promoting overall health and wellbeing. Getting sufficient daylight exposure may help modulate circadian rhythms which rely on input from the eyes and light exposure (“Aging and Sleep,” 2023).

There are times however that poor sleep cannot be avoided,exercise has been found to have a protective effect on cognition by canceling out negative effects of sleep deprivation (Zhao et al., 2023).People who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night. Walking with  Activator Walking Poles from Urban Poling to help with balance. Having a consistent routine when it comes to sleep hygiene is a step to help improve time spent and quality of sleep.

Don't allow myths about aging and fitness hold you back from living your best life. Embrace the journey of aging with confidence, knowing that you have the tools and support to thrive at any age.By dispelling these myths, we cultivate a more positive and accurate perception of aging. By embracing the facts of aging, we can approach our later years with resilience and optimism, making meaningful connections, taking up new hobbies, and putting our health and vitality first. Aging isn't an inevitable descent into decline but a multifaceted chapter brimming with opportunities for growth, continuous learning, active living and joy, propelled by movement and a commitment to wellbeing.







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