Why is “Athlete” in quotations? Because all seniors are “athletes.” Merriam-Webster defines athlete as “a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength.”
So, athlete is the best word I know to describe an individual, young or old, who desires to maintain their mobility independence, reduce their fall risk, increase their strength, improve their reaction time, increase their endurance, improve their flexibility, improve their overall health, and reduce injuries and risk of injury. By definition, these activities require the same physical skill and strength principles that any athlete would use on the football field, tennis court, or golf course.
“If you want to move, you have got to move.” This was a quote I heard from the senior mother of a colleague, and it rings true. As humans, we are designed to move. We are learning new things in the field of orthopedics, biomechanics, fitness and the limits of the human body that has begun turning the tide away from passive care and toward active care.
For example, we know now that arthritis does not have to be painful, as 20-40 percent of people older than 40 have arthritis but don’t have pain in the affected joint. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in a clinical setting, and it is incredibly inspirational when I see my senior athletes overcoming their pain and list of medications by rehabbing their body with proper movement.
Are you challenging yourself? Take this simple self-assessment.
First, write down the three most physically demanding things you did last week. Whether that was walking up the steps to Madison Park or running for two hours without a break around Seattle; everything counts and doesn’t have to be in a gym setting.
Then, take each of those activities and write down how long it took you. So, if it was a minute, then write down 1; Two hours would be 120, etc.
Then write beside each of those three activities what your RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) was on a 0-10 scale. Just for reference, about 6-7/10 is the threshold when you can no longer hold a conversation with someone because you’re out of breath.
If you track these top-three activities for three weeks and find your numbers are staying the same or going down, then you may need to step up your activity levels. Challenging yourself is important, and your body will reward you by getting stronger. Finding your “why” is most important here, as everyone has different intrinsic motivating factors and different reasons for doing what they do: Some people want to go on vacation to Europe with their family; some people want to pick up their grandkids; some want to garden without pain; and some people want to just maintain their independence well into their 90s. Whatever your why is, find it, write it down, and look at it every day to inspire you to get up and challenge your body every day.
Dr. Dan Michael is a chiropractic physician at NW Sports Rehab in Madison Park.