Staying physically active is hugely important as we get older. There are plenty of examples of athletes in their 80’s who still compete at weight lifting, marathons, and even the now famous Iron Nun, (thanks Nike) Sister Madonna Buder who just finished her 46th Triathlon and who didn’t start running until she was 47! However, the body is changing and its important to know how to stay active without “overloading” and getting injured.
I love to move and have been active my whole life whether it was running, cycling, yoga, dance, or walking. I feel like the same person, therefore I can still do what I did at 20, 30, 40. Right? Like running up a steep mountain trail or keeping up with the young yoga enthusiasts or perhaps even taking a Pound fitness class very close to a college campus that combines drumming with cardio and hundreds squats and plies! I humbly admit to all the above examples. I felt the tug in the hamstring but thought it was just sore and I would heal like I did with all my other intermittent sore muscles. So, I kept walking and riding my bike. I did consult with a PT but didn’t get the rest I needed. The pain didn’t go away and by the time I actually went to see a Sport’s Medicine doc, I had a small partial tear in the tendon. Ouch! Now I have time to write this blog.
So, how to prevent this situation?The safety margin of an exercise dose tends to decline with aging, according to Kallinen and Markku in their article, Aging, Physical Activity and Sports Injuries published in the Journal of Sports Medicine. The authors state that, “The best ‘treatment’ for sports-related injuries is prevention. Good agility, technical skills, and cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness are important in injury prevention among the elderly.” (or middle age).
Tips for Maintaining Fitness:
- Adjust your mindset! Accept the fact that you are getting older and treat yourself with care and compassion.
- Set goals but be realistic about your training plan.
- Warm up your muscles before jumping into an activity.
- Flexibility exercises are important to counteract the loss of flexibility as we age.
- Make sure your posture is in alignment by consulting with a physical therapist or DO. Donna Byrne, a licensed Physical Therapist and owner of Pilates Central has been specially trained by the Postural Restoration Institute and incorporates these exercises into all the Pilates classes taught at her studio. Hips that are out of alignment for example, can lead to all kinds of problems that I am experiencing first hand!
- Start slow with a new activity or even an old activity that you haven’t done in a while. Do half the usual time at first and then add 5-10 minutes the next time you do it.
- Incorporate the 3 basics of fitness in to your weekly routine: strength training, cardiovascular training and flexibility.
- Cross-train. Over-use injuries are common so mix up your routine but see above about starting slowly!
- For brain/body fitness, incorporate activities that include balance, coordination and reaction time. Yoga, dance, tennis are good examples of these activities.
- Use a foam roller to loosen up the connective tissue that tends to get less flexible with age. Maintain a healthy weight so you will have less wear and tear on your joints. Choose activities you enjoy. Nature and socializing are also good for your health. Exercise outside or with a friend or in a fun class to get twice your benefit and keep you motivated.
- Last but not least – Don’t ignore pain – that is a signal something is off!! Listen to your body and give it the rest or the care that is needed. Hopefully, you won’t need to learn the hard way!