HEALTH & FITNESS: Establish a fitness bench for you | Characteristics

Saving money for emergencies is good advice and important for maintaining quality of life in the event of a job loss or other financial crisis. While this may seem like common sense, many people were caught without enough savings when they needed it and found it difficult to meet basic needs.

This principle can also be applied to physical conditioning. When you are healthy, you can maintain a high level of fitness. This makes your day to day easier and serves as a reserve or “bank” to withdraw when you need it. Your fitness now can help you through a health crisis, just as saving money can help you through a financial crisis. This health crisis can come in the form of an injury or illness that prevents you from being active for several days, or a hospitalization that keeps you bedridden for a week, a month, or longer.

The problem with periods of inactivity, such as bed rest or hospitalization, is that there are serious physiological effects that occur within a few days and worsen over time. You may have noticed this as weakness and fatigue after spending a few days in bed with a cold. Muscle strength decreases with each day of bed rest and can be 50% lower after three weeks. This reduction in strength could limit a person who was already deconditioned to a point where they would have difficulty completing the most basic activities of daily living.

A person who was fit and strong when he went to the hospital would certainly be better when he was released. Older adults do worse than younger individuals. According to one study, the decline in strength seen in older men in just 10 days was equivalent to the change measured after 28 days in men 30 years younger.

It’s not just the muscles that are affected; the bones also become weaker. In fact, 12 weeks of bed rest can reduce bone density by up to 50%, exposing patients to an increased risk of fracture. This is due to the reduced stress on the bone from not standing and walking, as well as the lack of muscle activity. Two of the most effective ways to increase bone density are to put stress on bones through weight-bearing activities and the action of muscles pulling on bones from resistance training. As bed rest eliminates these stresses, bone density rapidly decreases.

A unique study from the 1960s had healthy young men complete three weeks of bed rest. All experienced a rapid decline (more than 20%) in their aerobic fitness, but quickly recovered after the experiment ended. These individuals also had their fitness tested again 30 years later. It turns out that the decline in fitness of these young people in three weeks of bed rest was greater than the decline in fitness that occurred over the age of 30!

The good news is that most patients are encouraged to move around as much as possible. Some receive physical therapy or rehabilitation, even after major surgery, to help lessen the effects of prolonged bed rest. It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities if you or a loved one is hospitalized.

There are many reasons to exercise and stay in shape, but the most important reason may be to develop a fitness “bank” that you can draw on if you are injured or hospitalized. As the effects of bed rest are seen in people of all ages, everyone can benefit from a good foundation of physical fitness. Just like putting money in the bank, doing a little now can pay off big later, when you need it most.

HEALTH & FITNESS: Establish a fitness bench for you | Characteristics

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