Tips for the aging athlete in us all

Common misconceptions about being athletic as a mature adult

Tips for the aging athlete in us all

Tips for the aging athlete in us all

1. “I have bad knees/hips/back, so I should rest and ‘save them’ for when I need them.”

For osteoarthritis, movement has been proven to decrease pain and slow the degeneration of the joint in question. In fact, the lack of movement from leading a sedentary lifestyle accelerates joint degeneration.

We used to think osteoarthritis was a phenomenon of wear-and-tear, but we have discovered it’s more complex than simple overuse. There is good evidence that walking, jogging and running decrease your risk of developing osteoarthritis or needing a hip replacement, contradicting the outdated thought that these activities caused degeneration.

2. “I don’t play sports, so I don’t need to be athletic”

Athletes are humans who move, so if you move, you are an athlete. Whether you’re approaching your 100th birthday and your biggest challenge is walking to the kitchen, or you play for the Seattle Seahawks every Sunday, we all have movement problems to solve every day. So, whether you’ve tripped on the carpet, or the opposing player just tackled you, there will always be unexpected movement problems to solve.

Why not prepare for that test now, so you’re ready when it comes? The greatest threat to an athlete (a human who moves) is the loss of mobility (their ability to move as they wish) and no one is more challenged to keep their mobility than the aging athlete. So, the older we get, the more time, effort and energy we need to spend maintaining our mobility.

3. “I was a high-performing athlete in my day, I know what to do with myself”

Congratulations on your accomplishment, and I have no doubt that you know what you’re doing. You’re probably taking the time to look after yourself several hours a day with stretches, exercises, nutrition, etc. In fact, you’re probably taking an additional several hours each week to keep yourself abreast of all the latest trends and research in the field of biomechanics, genomics, and nutrition. As a high-level performer, you probably keep scrupulous details of your strength and cardiovascular abilities, and you may even enter yourself in competitions each year to test your personal capacity. You also consult with multiple different professionals, at multiple points in the year to ‘check-in’ and get pointers on how you can be even better. If you’re doing all that, then give yourself 10 gold stars and an A+!  If not, then perhaps there is some room for improvement or if you’ve been out of the routine for quite some time, then perhaps a new beginning is due!

Takeaway ideas

• Get 1 percent better every day. It’s so small, it’s almost imperceptible, but 1-percent change every day adds up at the end of the year because every day builds on itself. This is a phenomenon called compounding interest, and it applies just as much to human physiology as it does to your Roth IRA. Need some ideas? Take the stairs instead. Park farther away. Walk after breakfast. Squats before lunch. Drink another glass of water. Start small, build big.

• Start talking with your friends about this, and surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to be doing, or know how to do what you want to do, and insert that activity or person into your daily or weekly routine. It’s more likely than not that you will face a major challenge of mobility in your lifetime (i.e. hip replacement, knee replacement, etc.). How will your body respond to the challenge, and is it ready for that challenge? Have you done enough to prepare for that challenge?

• Get a baseline assessment, set a goal, and work toward that goal every day. Whether it’s steps, miles, weights on a machine, flexibility, or skill movement in sport, do something to work toward that goal every single day. Already doing this? Make sure this is the right goal for you, and it may help to consult a professional about it.