By adjusting your exercise routine and learning how to manage any injuries that arise, you can continue to enjoy your favorite activities well into your golden years.
If you maintain an active lifestyle, you may wonder, “how much longer can I work out at the same pace as I get older?”
There’s no getting around the fact that as we age, our bodies change and we’re vulnerable to certain orthopedic conditions that could interfere with the exercise routines we practiced when we were younger. The good news is that you can continue to stay active in your later years — if you take care of your vital joints and muscles today.
As Dr. Michael Y. Mizhiritsky points out, when we get older our muscles weaken and bone mass deteriorates, which can lead to a variety of injuries. Here are four common ailments that may affect older athletes, and how you can manage them effectively.
If you begin to experience severe and persistent back pain, the first thing you should do is stop any strenuous exercise that might be exacerbating your condition. While you’re resting, however, gentle stretching or physical therapy can help you recover faster and prevent future injury. Exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscles will help your back heal and lessen chronic pain.
ARTHRITIS & OSTEOARTHRITIS
Most people over 40 suffer from some form of arthritis, a degenerative condition that weakens the cartilage and bones surrounding our joints. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage deteriorates to a point where the bones in the joint rub against each other. Common signs of arthritis include joint stiffness and pain after exercising or putting pressure on the joint. Similar to treating back pain, building up the strength of your joints and underlying muscles can relieve stiffness and discomfort.
STRESS FRACTURES & OSTEOPOROSIS
Movements that put continual pressure on the lower leg bones, such as running, can result in stress fractures, or small cracks in the bones. You’ll know you have a stress fracture if the area is bruised, tender, and painful. Although stress fractures can happen to anyone at any age due to overuse, older women are at heightened risk because they may suffer from osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones. For postmenopausal women, walking, jogging, and weight lifting can spur bone growth. For runners, varying the pace of your run and doing calf-strengthening exercises before you hit the pavement can help prevent stress fractures.
DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
Between the vertebrae in our backs are cushioning discs made of cartilage. As we age, these discs may shrink and weaken, causing friction between the vertebrae. Symptoms of degenerative disc disease include pain in the upper neck and back, muscle spasms, and numbness in the shoulders and arms. While some weakening of the discs may be inevitable as you age, increasing the flexibility and strength of the muscles that support the spine may help diminish the pain.
CHANGING UP YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE
You can stay active well into your 70s and 80s, but you may have to switch up your exercise routine as you age and experience changes in mobility. Instead of hitting the gym for a high-impact workout or running five miles a day, try less strenuous aerobic exercises and lighter weight lifting. Listed below are some suggestions.
- Do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity every week. This could include a brisk walk, bike riding, swimming, and even gardening.
- Lift weights two days a week, either by using exercise bands or hand weights.
- Many older people experience trouble with their balance. To help improve your balance as you get older, practice standing on one foot or rising from a chair without using your hands.
At any age, physical activity helps you feel better and may even prevent chronic conditions like diabetes. If you want to stay active throughout your life, it’s important to be aware of the orthopedic issues that may crop up as you grow older. Devoting time to your physical well-being now will pay off in the long run.
If you are experiencing any pain from your exercise routine, contact a specialist at New York Bone & Joint. Our doctors can diagnose the problem and suggest effective treatment options. Book an appointment online or give us a call today.