Fitness Fun & Facts: Aging “Great”-fully

“Aging” can be a touchy subject around people in my age bracket.   The fitter people tend to feel good, motivated, positive, less sensitive to age.  Those of us in the 40 – 50+  age range that have not maintained a high level of fitness may look back and think “I wish I stayed fit!”.   We often feel it’s too late to become fitter and healthier and think that we are too old to make lifestyle changes or to be more physically active.  We shudder at the thought of each birthday because we are “getting older”.

Aging beats the alternative and we cannot stop Father Time!  But we can make changes that redefine our biological age – at any age.  There is little that makes it too late to become more physically active.  Activity is the key to a better quality of life as the years advance.  A good exercise plan with healthy nutrition and a sensible approach to fitness help you move better and feel fitter and healthier!

I recalled some comments on aging from my younger years.  When my father was in his late 30’s, I remember him saying to a friend, “…my body is older but I still ‘feel’ like I am 18” – mentally and socially, he felt 18.  And when I was about 13, I remember my then 38 year old physically fit eye-doctor talking about a muscle strain from playing racquetball.  He tried to return to his game before properly healing and was told by his doctor, “…you need to let it heal.  You are not 18.  You are a 38 year old athlete.  It takes time to heal.”  38 does not seem so old any more!

Now in my mid-50’s, I can also relate!  2015 was a challenging year physically for me in that I had several injuries that I had to overcome in order to remain physically active.   The injuries were all due to either an incomplete warm up, not exercising enough, or not allowing my body to heal from a previous injury.  I was injured less when regularly playing ice hockey than playing occasionally now!

Injuries I had to deal with last year included, left knee meniscus and quad strain, left shoulder (rotator) and bicep strains, right shoulder (rotator) strain, right knee meniscus, right foot heel bruise, right calf strain, and right hamstring strain. Most of these started as a “little tweak” that I did not “listen to”.   I also did not wait long enough to allow for healing.  The injuries either worsened or triggered another injury.  All because I was impatient and forgetting my body needed more time to heal.

As we mature, we need to be aware of changes in our bodies and how we treat them – particularly after an injury.  Recovering from an injury requires rest.  Massage therapy can help with recovery from muscle and tendon injuries.  I’ve been a strong proponent of chiropractic care and physical therapy as well.  It can take longer and require more rest to properly heal but it is well worth it in the long run.   When it’s time to “jump back on the horse” don’t go full speed until you have built the strength and mobility back up to do so.

A significant benefit to exercise is minimizing the risk of injury in the first place.  This is very important as we age!  With proper preparation and progression – ideally under the supervision of a qualified and caring trainer – you can increase the intensity of physical activity to the point that you are working very hard during your workouts.High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a type of training that can be done in a shorter amount of time with tremendous physical benefits.  Studies show that HIIT can have more benefits that continuous endurance training.  HIIT workouts should be incorporated into your training plan.   Other studies have been done with folks in the 55+ age range – including those with cardiovascular issues – that have shown that HIIT is superior to moderate exercise.  Again, the key is to progressively build strength and allow your body to adapt and then keep going!

In summary, committing sincerely and faithfully, to a lifestyle of healthy nutrition, proper rest, patient healing after an injury, and exercise increasing in intensity (preferably HIIT), at any age, will help your body to mature “great-fully” giving you a positive quality of life!

For a good read on exercising as we age, check out: