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The Foot " Part Three"

The thirties is the decade when our muscles, tendons and ligaments begin to exhibit a loss of elasticity which makes them more vulnerable to the stresses put upon them. With the explosion of health problems related to inactivity and eating too much, exercise is recommended as a solution to these ailments, increasing the likelihood of foot pathologies as our feet are more vulnerable with time. As we try and maintain or increase our levels of performance we need to plan this carefully and factor in enough time for rest and recuperation.

Many problems occur when people in their thirties decide that they want to regain the fitness they once knew as a person in their twenties, forgetting that their soft tissues' capacity to endure stresses has reduced significantly in the meantime. Some of this problem relates to the amount of weight we have typically gained in the meantime as weight gain can be very important in foot pathologies.  Warming up and stretching before activities or athletic performance becomes more and more important as we get older.

In our forties we lose more of the fatty padding from the undersides of our feet, with typical pains occurring in the ball, arch or heel of the foot. The foot tissues are both looser in terms of resisting stress and tighter in terms of being less easily flexible and extensible. Our feet may spread to some degree and by our fifties we may be wearing a bigger size than we did when we were young adults. Now we need to adjust our shoe sizes and comfort and add in strengthening and stretching exercises to maintain foot health.

There is a continuation of the ageing processes in the feet in the fifties as well as changes which occur due to our genetic heritage. Our parents could have had problems such as painful flat feet, osteoarthritis and bunions and these will have manifested themselves by now. Exercise in weight bearing poses increasing risk of injury as the thickness of the fatty cushioning continues to reduce with time. These activities which we want to pursue need to be planned to be successful.

The ability to absorb shocks becomes less as the fatty material padding out our soles continues to thin, with the superficial skin and other tissues losing hydration and losing thickness. Heel fissures and cracks can develop with pain and infection possible as consequences, but simple creams can moisturise the skin effectively and make the appearance of the feet improve. Fifty year old and older people have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and this has been diagnosed more successfully in recent years. March fractures may develop in the foot bones in these cases.

The typical exercise stresses which occur may be too great for the healing and coping abilities of the feet as we reach our fifties, making it challenging to set and undertake an exercise programme at this age. Many medical conditions declare themselves at this time, patients consulting the doctor about cardiac conditions, diabetes or obesity, with exercise often recommended as part of the management. Starting the new exercise regime can overstep the tissues tolerances of the feet.

Being 60 or older in modern society has a different meaning today as people expect to live longer and to be more active well into their old age, an expectation not typical of earlier generations. Jogging and all the other physical pursuits now fashionable increase the loads on our feet with some consequences which are not positive. However, setting an effective fitness programme in your fifties makes it likely that you will be able to maintain this into your sixties.

The peak years for surgical management of foot problems is in the sixties, when the feet have clocked up many walking miles and sporting events. The changes in the feet may now not only interrupt more energetic pursuits such as running and jumping but start to limit more day to day functional activities such as walking. Surgeons may advise earlier surgery rather than waiting until the condition has advanced and the tissues of the foot are more compromised and older.

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