Has Olympics fever inspired you to get in shape?
We probably don't need to remind you that the everyday wear and tear the years can take on our bodies -- not to mention weight gain and slower recovery time from injury -- can make it harder to maintain an active lifestyle as we age. Getting back in shape after a few sedentary years can be a daunting prospect -- and forget it if exercise has never been a part of our lives.
The real devil of it is that we know we should get in shape, especially if we have other ailments. For those suffering from arthritis, for example, physical activity can actually reduce pain, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s not to mention the obvious benefits of a regular workout, both physical and mental.
"Exercise is always good for anybody," said Dr. Alexis Colvin, an orthopedic surgeon at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City specializing in sports medicine. Although she acknowledges the many challenges age can present for would-be athletes over 50 (early arthritis, tendonitis and excess weight to name a few), she offered some advice on working around these challenges, such as turning to more low-impact activities like swimming.
Here's what you need to know to get in shape and stay active at 50 and beyond:
See A Doctor First
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you've been idle for a while, it's important to see a doctor before getting active again, says Dr. Alexis Colvin, an orthopedic surgeon at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. You want to make sure you don't have any pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, that might present a problem when you start up your new exercise regimen.
Getting active too quickly, often with incorrect form, is one of the primary reasons people over 50 find themselves in her office, Colvin says. It's important to slowly build a base level of strength, flexibility and fitness before pushing yourself to, say, sign up for that marathon.
Consider Seeking Professional Help
It's always helpful to have a little direction and support in starting something new. Colvin suggests getting started with a personal trainer or physical therapist to tailor an exercise program to your goals.
Get In A 'Pain-Free Zone Of Activity'
Low-impact activities, such as swimming or using the elliptical, are all good for people who have joint pain, says Dr. Colvin. If it hurts, don't push it!
Think Beyond Cardio
An active lifestyle isn't limited to throwing on some running shoes and hitting the pavement. Dr. Colvin suggests yoga and pilates, which can help with strength and flexibility even if they don't give you the same cardiovascular workout you might get from the treadmill.
Think Outside The Box...Or, Should We Say, The Gym
Colvin also points to the many home exercise videos available, which can be a great alternative for those who would prefer to exercise from the comfort of their living rooms. The one drawback, she says, is potential for injury from using incorrect form, "since there's no one watching you."
Mix up your routine and <a href="http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/tipsandtricks/a/Cross_Training.htm" target="_hplink">consider cross-training</a> (adding swimming and biking to a running program) to prevent boredom, avoid repetitive injuries and improve your overall condition. Exercise with friends to add social benefits to the physical and mental advantages of your workout. Recognize your limits, adjust accordingly and enjoy the quality-of-life benefits of an active lifestyle for many years to come.