GUEST BLOG: 50+ Health & Wealth Section features a weekly Guest Blog from area health professionals
Authored by Dr. Eric Martin, Orthopedic Surgeon of Orange Regional Medical Group
The “aging athlete” is anyone who pursues athletic endeavors, whether competitively or not, as they age.
Some of these athletes want to be able to play pick-up basketball with their kids or grandkids; others, sometimes called weekend warriors, play in recreational leagues. Some train rigorously for officially sanctioned events and organizations like US Masters Swimming, which welcomes swimmers over 25, or even the Senior Olympic Games, for competitors 50 and older.
All Aging Athletes Have The Same Thing in Common: Their Bodies Age
No matter their level of competitive engagement, all aging athletes have the same thing in common: Their bodies age. Our faculties naturally decline as we age: muscle strength, respiratory and cardiovascular capacity, flexibility – they all diminish as time goes on. The good news is that the speed at which these things decline can be significantly decreased with a baseline understanding of the factors at hand and by training to offset this natural decline. In fact, studies have shown that people in their nineties can achieve gains in both cardiovascular fitness and strength through training.
I am aging athlete myself. For those of us who continue to train as we get older, we may notice that intensity becomes harder to maintain. The tendency then is to back off the intensity and try to continue making advances through duration. Increasingly, research shows that intensity is actually a positive way to affecting a slow-down or reversal of some aspects of the normal aging process. We just need to be careful not to stress our bodies too much.
Maximize Health and Competitive Benefits of Training
To maximize the health and competitive benefits of training, it is critical that aging athletes take certain precautions to avoid injury. Obviously, any underlying cardiovascular issues that you may have or history of orthopedic issues should be evaluated by your physician prior to beginning a workout regimen. I also advise patients looking to jump into new physical activity later in life to consult with a trainer or physical therapist to learn how to exercise correctly, focusing especially on proper form.
Allow for Proper Recovery Times After Exercise
Recovery times also lengthen as we age. Twenty-year- olds can compete all day, get a little sore and do it all again the next day. Not so much for aging athletes. Being sore after an activity is okay, but attention must be paid to getting adequate rest and stretching to get the most from our recovery periods and keep us from overtaxing our bodies.
What goes for the aging athlete, should be taken as sound advice for anyone who values their vitality: good health and longevity require vigilance and maintenance. Whether you’re taking part in athletic competitions or not, being active makes you stronger, and that makes it harder for whatever medical issues you may come across in your life to get the upper hand.