Exercising as you age

As quality of life improves and life spans increase people are continuing to be physically active for longer.  Middle to older aged people are continuing to exercise and play sports they were involved in when younger and some people are beginning new activities altogether.

Some of these activities include everyday exercise such as running, cycling and swimming but also include extreme sports such as snowboarding and mountain climbing. In the United States Orthopedic surgeons report a dramatic increase in ‘Baby Boomer’ referrals with exercise related injuries and have dubbed the phenomenon ‘Boomeritis’. As your body gets older it doesn’t work as fast or efficiently as it used to.  It is normal to feel that you are slowing down.  In fact there is a clear correlation between age and performance loss. For example, it has been found that the world record for the 100 metre sprint decreases at 0.5 metres/second/year and VO2max (a measure of your aerobic capacity), will decrease at around 10% per decade. Importantly however, people continuing with fitness training have a VO2mx decline of only half the rate of a non-exercising person.

It is important to continue exercising as you get older to maintain flexibility, strength and wellbeing but you need to be a little more careful how you go about it. Your musculoskeletal system is not as resilient as you age and it takes longer to recover from strenuous activity.

  • Get a doctors check before beginning an exercise programme to check that your heart is healthy and to check over any previous injuries.
  • Don’t do the same exercise every day.  Mix it up.  If you are running, go for a run one day and cross train the next.
  • Ensure you keep flexible with a regular stretching programme.  Make sure you stretch before and after exercise, with a warm up and cool down period of at least 5 minutes. Your Prohab physiotherapist can help you with a customized exercise or rehabilitation programme.
  • Feed your body.  Eat well with a good daily intake of calcium and vitamin D for healthy muscles and bones. Supplements can sometimes be required. Glucosamine is a commonly taken supplement shown to assist musculoskeletal health.
  • You may need a sports brace or orthotic to provide extra support for long-term injuries.
  • Give yourself a couple of days rest after a particularly intensive workout. If you are sore following your exercise then apply cold packs to reduce inflammation.
  • Include aerobic activities, strength and flexibility for a well-balanced exercise programme.
  • Get professional advice on technique and programmes if you are just starting out.
Exercising as you age