Bone density – Bone loses calcium and other minerals with ageing.  This is increased for women post menopause.  This causes the bone to become thinner and weaker leading to a greater incidence of fractures.  This doesn’t affect just women, approximately 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 develop an osteoporosis related fracture

Spinal Discs – Gradually lose their fluid and become thinner

Posture – The spine, due to the above, can become curved and compressed

Joints – The cartilage that sits between joints and assists with some movement decreases.  This is most common in the knees, hips, small joints of the hand and neck.  There is also less fluid in the joints, making them stiffer and less flexible.  This can be made worse by overuse when younger and also weight gain.  Every ½ kilo of weight gained increases the pressure at the knees by 1 ½ kilos and 6 kilos at the hips.

Foot arches – These can drop causing a loss of mobility within the foot

Sleep – Sleeping patterns alter, generally more sleep is required once you get past your 50’s.  As

you age you become more fatigued.  This is due to many things, one of which is the changes in muscle.

Skin and hair – Skin becomes thinner and loses it elastic abilities.  Hair becomes brittle.  This is due to a decrease in cell activity to produce new skin and hair.

Walking – Walking becomes more effortful.  The pattern changes so that the step length is shorter, walking speed is reduced, arm swing decreases and balance becomes worse.  All this can lead to an increase chance of falls.

Tendons – Tendons are at the end of your muscles and these connect the muscle to the bone.  They act as a lever point and therefore need to be strong but with some give.  Overtime the water content of your tendons reduces which makes them stiffer and less able to tolerate stress which can cause injury.

Muscle – Ageing causes a loss in muscle tissue and this is called sarcopenia.  This loss of muscle tissue begins early on in life.  Approx from 20yrs for men and 40yrs for women.  Gradually, Lipofuscin (age related pigment) and fat is deposited within the muscle.  The muscle fibres shrink and the muscle becomes less toned and less able to contract.  Approx 1% of lean muscle mass is lost per year once you are over the age of 40years.  This then has an affect on strength, where between 50 and 70 years 30% of your muscle strength is lost and then 30% for every decade thereafter.  There are other issues that affect our muscle mass, like certain medications (corticosteroids) or specific diseases (Multiple sclerosis) which can be more difficult to alter.

Can we do anything to stop the changes that occur with age?

Changes to the body caused by ageing generally occur very slowly and happen ‘under the radar’ so are difficult to see.  In the past we have used ageing and illness as a reason to decrease our activity levels.  Evidence shows that if we don’t use our muscles appropriately the muscles begin to believe we don’t need them anymore so change their use to become more sedentary.  For every day that is spent in bed we lose 1% of our muscle mass so you can imagine a similar thing occurs for sitting for prolonged periods in a chair or generally reducing the movement you do.

However the good news is that the evidence shows that exercise can reduce the affects of ageing and even counteract them.  This picture below shows the muscle mass of two 70 year olds.  One who is very active and one who is sedentary.  Quite impressive the difference!!


If you are experiencing problems with mobility and balance, or if you have lost confidence with some activities that used to be straight-forward, like tying shoe laces or climbing stairs, give us a call 01453 548119 to arrange a chat with Vicky Baker, Physiotherapist, or to sign up for our Vim and Vigour programme.