Strength for life helps keep joints limber

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By Wayne Phillips

Remember the old spiritual song, Dem Bones?: “The hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone…” and so on. The lyrics perfectly illustrate the function of joints – to connect and enable “Dem Bones” to move.

Joints are always switched on and they’re an indispensible part of daily living. Because of this constant usage, joint pain, which is often secondary to arthritis, is the reason for about a third of all physician visits for older adults.

We can’t leave home without them, and if our joints are not in good shape — we don’t leave home at all.

Contrary to popular belief, however, joint pain is not an inevitable part of aging and there are a number of proactive options available to you. One of the most effective deterrents is to stay strong.

Increasing the strength of the muscle and ligaments that surround the joint protects it from damage by increasing stability, enabling them to better absorb the shocks of everyday living and reducing the chances of flare-ups and falls. Strength training classes and one-on-one therapy with a personal trainer provides the ideal atmosphere for increasing strength.

It is a little known fact that strength training both maintains and increases muscle mass, and can also reduce fat buildup and reverse the fat gain typically associated with aging. Research reports that adults usually lose about six pounds of muscle tissue every decade. This results in a 3 percent per decade reduction in resting metabolic rate, which can lead to an 18-pound per decade increase in body fat.

So, if one of the underlying causes of fat gain is muscle loss, it makes sense to start and continue with exercise to replace the lost muscle.

The best means for rebuilding muscle is a sensible program of strength training.

Wayne Phillips, Ph.D., is chairman of the ActiveRx Scientific Advisory Board. ActiveRx of Westborough is located at 24 Lyman St., and can be contacted at 508-329-1163. Additional articles on health and fitness can be read on www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.