Working Out and the Aging Athlete

pHion Balance  |  0 Comment

No matter how old we are, we must always feel young. This especially applies to health and exercise. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle at any age.

What defines the aging athlete today?  Some may be athletes in the eighties who continue to perform at performances levels. These men and woman are simply continuing to run, swim, play tennis and other high impact endurance sports, challenging themselves by competing in triathlons and marathons just as they did when then were in their twenties. Two important reasons for their longevity are maintaining a constant daily rigorous training program and a healthy history of bone and joint history, which includes rest and recovery.

However, most aging athletes – defined as lifelong participants in sports and activity as well as individuals who exercise for fitness – encounter some specific difficulties during aging. This blog will briefly describe these age specific injuries common to aging athletes, some activities you can add to workout to prevent injuries and finally some thoughts on making good exercise choices.

The number one problem in aging athletes is chronic overuse injuries, specifically in the bones, joints and muscle. Both muscle strain and tendonitis decrease muscle flexibility, which drastically increases the chance of an injury. A common example of an overuse injury is in the shoulder blade or rotators cuff injury. Overuse injuries can lead to long-term disability and requires rest.

The other important injury older athletes face from years of high impact activities like tennis and running is age-related decline of muscles and bone. Loss of bone mass, tendons and ligaments leads to a decrease in elasticity and vulnerability to painful wear and tear injuries.  Common tendon related injuries, Tennis Elbow and Golf Elbow, are extremely painful, may require cortisone shots and special immobilization braces.

For lifelong athletes, biggest disappointment may come in having to give up your favorite sport. For a person who has run all his or her life, it is an enormous loss that only other older athletes can sympathize. Your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist can help you find a new, low impact sport such as swimming, cycling, walking and others.

Two new regimes should be added to every older person’s regime. The first is weight training. First, ask the trainers at your gym to assist you in starting a new program. The first is weight training. For beginners, this can be done with light hand weights. Lifting weights is the most efficient was to fight against osteoporosis, also known as “wear and tear arthritis,” which causes joint pain and stiffness. Weight bearing exercises will help increase bone density and can aid balance.

Finally, you should become fanatic about stretching your muscles; especially the ones you feel are the tightest. Stretching is one of the best tools you have to prevent future injures by keeping your muscles loose. Your gym, physical therapist, orthopedist and Internet will have worksheets on stretching. Stretch before and after you exercise, while waiting in line, if you’ve been standing or sitting in one place for 45 minutes, watching TV and before you go to bed.

As every training athlete knows, sleep is even more essential when you are regularly exercising, so take the time for Rest and Recovery!

Here's to your wellness,


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