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It’s clear that the activity level of a 5-year-old and a 50-year-old are different and for obvious reasons they can’t do the same things. What a little kid does, the positions they get in and out of so easily are not a part of our everyday life.

It’s challenging to get up and down from the ground and to consistently put stress on our joints, it is highly likely that they can’t quite handle the stress after years of office work and sometimes a sedentary lifestyle. A lot of normal play activities would be and ARE very painful for someone in their 50s.

A 5-year-old kid is growing, getting stronger and seeing a whole world for the first time. The 50-year-old is shrinking, getting weaker and most of the time seeing the similar things and having similar experiences every day of their life. Mostly, their painful feet hitting the ground in the morning!! God forbid you ask your doctor what to do about it… Most will likely tell you that you are just getting old, have progressing arthritis so you should take some medication or if you are having significant joint pain they might tell you to rest until it goes away.

“Bed Rest”, aside from during pregnancy, was one of the worst advents of medicine over the last century, maybe longer. Not until the last 30 years has it been widely accepted that bed rest for orthopedic injuries increases the likelihood of a chronic condition. With this information, we would expect that everyone would be urged by the medical community to get moving again, right?

Sadly, we would both be mistaken. When I had a back injury at 19, I was told that I needed to stop all activity and just let the chiropractor do his work because I had too much damage to keep exercising. This obviously poor advice is not isolated to the chiropractic community and in no way, is it indicative of what most chiropractors might suggest. I have heard other physical therapists tell their patients to stop activity aside from the table exercises instructed and I have had several patients over the years that were instructed by a physician that they needed to cease activity until their back healed.

Aggravating activities should be postponed for the healing process to occur and you may experience some mild muscle loss but if you hope to get better, then just “not moving” is as bad if not worse than continuing to do the same painful movement repetitively.

Another point to make with bed rest or any type of long term inactivity is that as you age, muscle loss happens faster. One study I recently reviewed, compared the muscle loss of bed rest between an 18-year-old and a 65-year-old; their muscle loss was equal at, 10 days for the teenager, and 3 days for the elder gentleman.

That makes a case that a senior is likely to lose muscle and strength 3 times faster than their younger counterpart. It also gives us a better view of why the mortality rate of people that sustain a broken hip is so high within 2 years. Get up and get moving, it’s going to hurt but not moving will likely kill you!

This information is not a prescription to go out and increase your activity level ten-fold! Over my career in physical therapy that over indulgent return to activity and exercise has kept me VERY busy and it is a common reaction to a surge of motivation, it’s a recipe for injury and often it is normal and in our nature.

What we ARE doing is identifying the problems we have with aging, why they affect us so heavily and then we can discuss what we can do to change them or slow the process down. The process is centered around consistent activity and wellness, but should be prescribed by a specialist who sees people in your shoes every day.

Dr. Jonathan Ruzicka
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