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Adjusting Your Exercise Routine as You Age

separator If you're the kind of person who's always made time to exercise, you probably intend to keep on working out deep into old age. That's the way most dedicated exercisers feel. And you do sometimes see extraordinary people doing things like running marathons at age 75 or swimming 50 miles when they're 85. But most bodies can't keep that up.

The truth is that even die-hard exercisers often find that they have to dial it down a bit as they age. Or make adjustments in some way, even if they maintain a level of high intensity. As the baby boomers get older, they're keeping orthopedic surgeons extremely busy repairing and replacing injured knees, hips, shoulders and ankles. But there comes a time when you need to adjust to your body, and make changes to your routine, because surgery can only do so much.

As you age, starting in your mid-thirties, your body begins to lose bone mass and muscle and it begins to add fat. Additionally, you begin to feel stiffer than you used to, and less flexible. You may not bounce back from aches and pains as quickly as you used to. These are all reasons why your workouts need to evolve over time.

The good news is that it's fine to exercise as much as you've been doing. If you like to spend 45 minutes exercising on most days, you still can. But you might not be able to do the same activities. You might need to replace kick boxing with hiking, or a daily run with a daily walk, for example.

Increase strength, balance and flexibility

Maintaining balance and flexibility helps you to prevent falls and reduce joint injuries that occur more easily as tendons shorten and tighten with age. Yoga and Pilates are excellent ways to enhance both balance and flexibility. They loosen the stiffness and strengthen your muscles. T'ai chi and qigong are also good for improving balance.

Weight training is an excellent way to increase strength. Don't start this on your own though. Learn the basics from a trainer who understands the issues and concerns of older people.

High risk exercises to avoid if you have osteoporosis

As you lose bone mass, your bones become more fragile and susceptible to fracturing. Activities that put you at higher risk of fractures include:

  • Running or jogging
  • Bowling
  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Skiing

Lower risk exercise if you have osteoporosis

These exercises are easier on your bones:

  • Water aerobics
  • Walking
  • Resistance training
  • T'ai chi and qigong
  • Hiking
  • Dancing

It's all about being realistic

Sports injuries have become the number 2 reason for visits to doctors' offices. You can reduce your risk of making one of those visits by taking a look at the kinds of exercise you're doing now, listening to your body and making some adjustments. And who knows, you might even discover that you enjoy some of the new things you've incorporated into your workout.

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; National Ambulatory Medical Care; National Athletic Trainers Association
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