Getting older has its perks, and it has some downsides. For aging athletes or anyone who enjoys being active, time can have a way of dampening the fun. Slowing down is part of aging, but for many Central Oregonians, slowing down or, ahem, stopping isn’t an option.
Research has shown that we are in our best physiological shape in our younger years, and that physiological function begins to decline at age 26. Your maximal heart rate and the maximal way your body uses oxygen (VO2max) decreases with age, both of which impact athletic endurance performance. Muscle mass tends to decline as well, which can affect performance. Lastly, it can take longer to recover from intense exercise with age. Your choice is to either accept and embrace this fact of life or give up the sports and activities you enjoy. We hope you will choose to embrace activity.
Only YOU can dictate the kind of athlete you will become with age. For most people, the motivation to train often shifts from setting new PRs to staying fit and healthy. As physical therapists, we feel this shift in mindset is healthy, and it is our goal to help people be as active and fit as possible, no matter the age.
Six Tips for Active Aging
- The first step to aging well as an athlete is to accept that your body is going to slow down. The ability to run as fast as you did in your 20s is likely not going to be possible in your 40s, 50s, or 60s. And that is ok. The point is to keep active and not to let age keep you from staying active.
- Understand your limitations. Pushing yourself to beat a PR may initiate an injury, which can impact your ability to train appropriately, adversely affecting performance.
- If an injury or pain presents itself, don’t ignore it. Often, the earlier you treat an injury, the easier it will be to resolve.
- Recognize the importance of recovery. At any age, recovery is critical. However, active recovery in aging athletes is essential. Activities such as yoga, swimming, and hiking are excellent for recovery days.
- Just because you can’t do the activity you love, doesn’t mean you can’t fall in love with another. Many athletes have to stop doing a particular activity due to age and wear and tear on the body. If this is you, don’t let it keep you from finding another passion. Many activities allow you to get the same physiological benefits without hurting or further injuring yourself. For example, a lot of runners who have had to stop or cut back turn to lap swimming for its low-impact, cardio wonders.
- Finding the right physical therapist can make all the difference in the success of your treatment. If you don’t connect well with your PT, find another. At Step & Spine Physical Therapy, we like patients to see two PTs during their treatment. The expertise of two collaborating PTs increases your chance of success. We also provide longer appointments. This allows us to provide more comprehensive care.