Paragon Press – June 2013

Keeping a balance as you age

No matter what your age

When Brian was in his 20s, he was fit and healthy. He rode his mountain bike and played basketball, although he didn’t think of that as exercise because it was just fun with his friends. Now Brian is in his 40s. He has a family, a full-time job that keeps him late at the office, and after a few spills on his bike, he can’t afford to be aggressive on the trails or the court. He wants to stay active and get exercise, but his outlook has matured.

As life changes, so does your body. Workout routines need to be reassessed throughout our lives, like a 401-k. You take less risk as you age and slow down a bit. Everyone experiences age-related decreases in function. The body decreases the maximal amount of oxygen it can use with age, known as VO2 max. This decreased ability to use oxygen begins in our 20’s and decreases more with age. Muscular strength beings its own descent by the time we reach 30. The majority of this loss in muscle strength occurs after the age of 50 and falls at a rate of 15% per decade. Women also deal with a loss of bone density. It decreases with age, but accelerates after menopause. All of these decreases remind us of our mortality, but we can age gracefully.

And Now For Some Better News

Aging is not for sissies. It’s a battle, but one that will improve your quality of life if you put some effort into it. Experts say the ideal combination of exercise as we get older should include a mix of aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility exercises. Some may find a lot of benefit from high-intensity workouts, but a less-rigorous workout can be just as effective, if done consistently. Dr. Bents suggests trying new exercises as we age to fit our lifestyle and body changes. Simple core exercises should be included in any fitness program, including full or partial squats, sit ups or crunches, planks, and shoulder/rotator cuff exercises.

Try something new: Zumba, yoga, CrossFit, circuit training, or P90X are examples. Tweak your routines as you get older to keep yourself active, interested, and fit. Get up and start moving!

Staying Balanced – Doing only one type of exercise can lead to muscle imbalance, leaving you prone to injury. Here are some suggestions for staying balanced.

Running – If running is something you’ve enjoyed over the years, you don’t need to stop as you age. Your body might need longer to recover. Try alternating the running with another activity, such as swimming or a rowing machine, to allow the joints and muscles to recover without the impact or overuse.

Swimming – Swimming is great for a cardiovascular workout and easy on the joints, but you need to incorporate weight-bearing exercise to prevent bone loss. Walking &/or running are good options. When swimming, try to spend an equal amount of time on your back while in the water to balance overall muscle conditioning and strength.

Cycling – Cycling mainly works the quadriceps. You need to maintain a balance with some other exercise such as an elliptical rider. Overly strong quadriceps can pull the kneecap to the side and create pain. Combining bicycling and running is a good combination to work a variety of muscles and prevent overuse. A stationary rowing machine also is helpful to achieve balance without pressure on the knees, if that is an issue.

Tennis – If you are right-handed, your right side is worked more than the left. Maintain balance with some resistance training, using dumbbells or therapy bands. Free weights force that weaker side to do more of the work, resulting in more balance of the muscles and less chance of injury.

You don’t work out? – No matter what your age, it’s never too late to get up and start moving. Walking doesn’t require a membership. No excuses. As we’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, having a friend join you is more fun and creates some accountability. You’re more likely to stick with any form of exercise when you have a friend join you. Start with something that sounds fun to get your heart pumping, like any of the exercises just described, keeping balance in mind. Incorporate a good core-building activity, such as Pilates or yoga. Exercise DVDs are another great option. They are cheaper than a health club membership, you don’t have to leave home, and you can do them at your own pace. With the incredible variety of DVD’s available today, from P90X to tai chi, everyone can find something they’re willing to try. They really do work and help you reach that goal to MOVE.

Finally, listen to your body. That sore hip or achy knee may be telling you to either slow down or not do as much. Remember how balancing your muscles can improve core strength and keep your body strong.

The following articles were referenced for this newsletter:
Medford Mail Tribune newspaper, April 7th, 2013, Rebalance your workout as you age, Page 1