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Posted on 01-22-2015

Maybe your strength on the athletic field isn’t what it used to be. Maybe your 10K pace has slowed. Do you succumb to “old age” and retire your athletic gear? 

The short answer is “No.”

One of the best things you can do to maximize your quality of life is to stay active.

You might think that the force of aging is the biggest threat to your feeling of wellness. Well, we are here to tell you that the “inevitable” effects of aging is a misnomer. Being active is your most powerful weapon against the negative health-related effects of aging. “It has been estimated that regular exercise may be able to retard the [physical] decline associated with old age as much as 50%.” (1)

Let’s try to better understand how we age and the importance of “staying in the game”.

One physiological change as we age relates to our cardiovascular system. Older athletes are unable to deliver as much oxygen to their muscles compared to their younger counterparts. This results in a degradation of aerobic performance. However, regular physical exercise increases pulmonary performance and decreases breathlessness.

One’s central nervous system is effected by the aging process. Typically, the aging athlete experiences slowing of reaction time and preserving superior skill levels can be a challenge. These aging effects can be very much counteracted by maintaining exercise and activity.

Another impact on our body is flexibility and joint range of motion which commonly decline steadily from childhood. What is most important to look at is the rate of decline. The main factor that determines the rate of decline is your level of activity.

Also, don’t forget a strong advantage of being a mature athlete – experience.  After years of training and competing, older athletes are more aware of their body’s needs and how best to adapt their training. This higher level of self-awareness can go a long way in helping keep your activity level up.  

It’s not about quitting, but adapting.

Yes, there are real biological differences between the young athlete you were and the senior athlete you are today. You likely will need to adjust your expectations and goals, and that’s okay. Activity keeps you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your overall health. Inactivity is the real threat to our health and well-being. As one expert says, “There is less risk in activity than continuous inactivity.” (1) So, if you haven’t already, dust off that athletic gear and get back in the game (after consulting your physician to ensure you’re ready to do so.). Your body will ultimately thank you for the effort.

(1)    (2) The Aging Athlete by Darrell Menard and William D. Stanish. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 17, No. 2.

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