I work with a lot of clients in their 50’s and beyond. Staying active over 50 is a big priority for them as they age. An injury can significantly derail this plan, especially as we age, since recovery just isn’t as easy.
Here are five of my top tips when speaking to folks over the age of 50 for staying active and mobile, avoid injuries, and continue doing everything they love:
1. Keep Moving
You’ll often hear me say: “You don’t get stiff because you get old, you get old because you get stiff”.One of the best ways to stay active and mobile as you age is to keep moving. Well what if you have something like arthritis? Remember that arthritis is normal. It happens to everyone as they age and it’s rarely a reason to stop doing your favorite activities.
In fact, research has shown that activities like running, when done consistently and with proper form, actually prevents knee arthritis. Arthritis worsens when you don’t move. And common “injuries” such as meniscal tears and bulging discs are more likely to occur in arthritic joints. But the more active you stay, the less likely you are to be impacted by ailments such as these, and the better your joints will feel. Happy joints will motivate you into staying active.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Both osteoporosis and heart health become bigger concerns as we age, and what you eat can have a direct and positive influence. With osteoporosis, your risk of injury, especially from a fall, becomes greater. Greens like kale, spinach, and arugula are awesome for your bones, along with citrus fruits, fish, and nuts. These foods help your bones stay strong and durable.
According to Health magazine, “The risk of a heart attack climbs for men after age 45 and for women after age 55.” As you enter middle-age, increasing the presence of foods like unsalted nuts, unprocessed oatmeal, raisins, blueberries, and even dark chocolate (over 70% cacao) can help keep your heart healthy. Before making any drastic changes to your diet, especially if you’ve got comorbidities such as diabetes or kidney disease, you’ll want to check with your doctor or dietician. But otherwise, paying attention to your diet can have a big impact on how healthy you keep your heart and bones, which will motivate you in staying active and mobile.
3. Work on Your Balance
Balance is one of the first things to go as a person gets older, and it’s one of the most crucial factors in fall prevention. Slips and falls due to poor balance can lead to broken bones and fractures, which become more common and harder to recover from as you age. But if you’re intentional about improving your balance when you exercise, it’s not too late to improve it.
While there are many great balance-exercises you can do at home, I always recommend incorporating balance strategies with movement and activity. Because rarely do we fall when just standing still. Try standing on one leg when you brush your teeth, place one foot up on a stool when washing dishes, walk around on your toes and heels during commercials. These are really easy strategies to incorporate into your daily living. And of course, activities like walking regularly, Thai Chi and Yoga are also great to promote good balance – while also keeping you active.
4. Strengthen Your Core
Having a strong core is beneficial at any age, but especially as you get older. Strong abs, hips and buttocks (all part of your core) help you to sit and stand more upright, prevent back and neck pain, and will help you feel stronger and more confident in just about everything that you do.
One word of caution, however, when it comes to core training is to pay special attention to your form and posture. Ironic, right? Since core training is supposed to help those things… But I can’t tell you how often I see folks (especially over 50) begin a new core training program and then call us 4-6 weeks later because they’ve suddenly hurt their back.
If you’re over the age of 50 – and you haven’t exercised in a while – I highly recommend engaging the help of a qualified professional who can guide you through exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level as well as keep a close eye on your form and technique when crunching those abs and working those planks.
5. Educate Yourself
Knowledge is power, and lack of it, is one of the biggest reasons I see people decreasing their activity levels as they age and getting injured.
People think that ailments like arthritis, bulging discs, or a torn meniscus are reasons to decrease or cease certain activities. Not true. Most of the things I just mentioned are normal occurrences as we age, and having them show up on an Xray or MRI is not a reason to change something you’ve been successfully doing for years.
Staying active and mobile actually helps these problems. If you’ve got pain, that’s a different story.
Talk to an expert who can help you figure out what’s going on, so that you can quickly get back to your activities and not make your pain worse.
Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].