Let’s face it, growing older can come as a bit of a shock – more gray hairs, teenagers that look younger every year, and a bit more bird watching, perhaps? … and yet, growing older, especially into your 50’s, never needs to be underscored by aches & pains, stiffness, a lack of activity or mobility, or a generally unhealthy lifestyle. We all have the ability to age well, actively, and with confidence, no matter where we are in our lives right now. In this post, then, I talk about how you can maintain an active lifestyle well into your fifties and beyond so as to safeguard a strong, mobile second part of your life.
When we think about the types of activities appropriate for individuals in their fifties and beyond, it’s best to consider those forms of exercise that don’t place unnecessary stress on your joints. Running or jogging, for example, can negatively impact your knees and back if not done with caution and proper form. While running is not inherently bad, we need to be in shape in order to run safely and to have our muscles be strong enough & quick enough to absorb all those repetitive forces.
Walking, on the other hand, can be done by anyone, of any age and is a great place to start! So, walking is a good activity to consider. In addition, you may want to include cycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates, and/or canoeing to your routine – not only are these activities fun to do, but they offer you a great way of working out without ‘pumping iron’ or running a marathon. And hey… after you do them, you still have time to spend with the grand-kids! Or better yet, invite them to join!
The important thing to remember is that, no matter what low-impact activity you decide to incorporate into your lifestyle, both consistency and degree is important. Your heartrate determines the quality of the exercise. So, while yoga is indeed about stretching, doing it for an extended period of time will drive your heartrate up and get you into good cardiovascular shape. The same rings true for Pilates. And, of course, swimming and cycling offer their own challenges and can certainly give you a great workout if you put the effort into it. See these new activities as ways to challenge yourself and to improve your heart-health.
In addition to cardio and general movement, it’s important that you take note of what your body is able to handle at any given time. Some of you reading this may start out with a 3-mile walk, while others will start with a 1-mile stroll. And that’s alright! Start where it’s comfortable for you and then begin challenging yourself to do more in a healthful, controlled way. It’s very important that you don’t over-exert yourself, as you’d be opening the door to injury and unnecessary down-time. Give your body a chance to strengthen before you dive off of the 10m diving board, buy a $4000 dollar bike, or hike Everest. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.
And because I’m a physical therapist, I have to tell you to stretch! Life is all about mobility and being able to do those things you love most. If you do not stretch pre-workout and post-workout, then the reality is that you may not be able to do all those things well into your old age. Now is the time to start stretching – do it regularly and with consistency before – and after – any of the activities you choose to do.
Hand-in-hand with stretching is the all-important rule of hydration. Your body needs lubrication to function at its best, so it’s extremely important that you hydrate appropriately. Make sure you have enough water to sustain you during your activities as well as afterwards. If you’re a male, aim to drink approximately 2.5 liters of water a day; if you’re a female, aim to drink slightly less at 2 liters of water per day. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel after your workout if you hydrate properly. And, not only that, but you’ll also do a lot to avoid injury and keep you in the best possible position to do the same – and even more – tomorrow and the week after.
Getting older doesn’t have to seem like a slow decline into immobility and pain. In fact, as you age you have a singular opportunity to change your life for the better – to be active, healthy pain free, and joyous. You have so much to look forward to: retirement, grandchildren, a whole world of adventure. We want you to make the most of every moment you have.
In that vein, if you’d like to be as mobile, flexible, and active as possible, the best possible decision you can make is to see a physical therapist. And nope – physical therapy is not only for those individuals who have pain, although it remains the safest, most effective option in those cases. In fact, physical therapy can teach you how to move properly for your body, what stretches to do, and can give you tips for proper posture and body mechanics no matter the exercise you choose to do: from kayaking to fencing, we’ve got you covered. With take-home, tailor-made exercise and stretches given to you at physical therapy, you will be armed with the tools to put your best foot forward on your journey to health, happiness, a pain-free life, and a mobile lifestyle. And if you really do want to get into running, we’ll make sure you’ve got great form to do this safely (while we throw in some performance enhancement too!)
Forget worrying about getting old: it’s going to happen regardless of what you think. It’s the choice you make, right now, though, that will determine the nature of how you will age. And that, at the end of the day, is the most important decision you can make. Stop dreaming up excuses, stop taking pills, stop thinking ‘it’s an age thing’, and get out there and move: pick up the paddle, baton, or racket. Put on the lycra…fit that helmet – the world is waiting for you – do it for your family, your friends, and yourself. For any information or advice, simply get in touch to see how physical therapy can help you achieve the active, mobile life you dream of, today. We’re excited for you and we’re here for you!