Never Too Old!
by Louise Roach
At age 47, Martina Navratilova returned to Wimbledon and represented the United States at the 2004
In September, seventy-three year old Ed Whitlock shattered his own world age
class marathon record by completing a marathon in under 3 hours. Ed is the first 70+ human in history
to attain this goal and he has done it twice!
September 26th was Jack LaLanne’s birthday. The Godfather of Fitness turned 90! Still sporting
his trademark jumpsuit, LaLanne is trim and strong. He’s living proof that diet and exercise are
the keys to a long, healthy life.
Why is exercise so important as we age? After 50, we begin to loose muscle mass at the rate of
6 percent every decade (about 5 pounds) and we gain 15 pounds of fat every ten years to replace
it. Less muscle and more fat stores in the body, combined with inactivity and poor diet, can contribute
to a wide array of degenerative conditions and disabilities, among them: osteoporosis, heart disease,
diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis. Researchers speculate that Alzheimer’s disease
and certain cancers can also be linked to a lack of activity as we age.
The Stanford University Medical Center has conducted several long-term studies on active individuals
over 50, particularly runners. They found that runners had a lower death rate and dramatically less
disabilities compared to non-runners. They observed that running regularly was associated with an
increase of HDL (good) cholesterol, plus a positive effect on muscle mass, as well as heart and
Other studies have concluded that regular exercise increases bone strength, controls weight gain,
and keeps diabetes in check. Active seniors are better able to take care of themselves, perform
common household tasks, and remain mentally sharp.
5 Parts of a Healthy-Aging Workout:
- Endurance Exercise: running, brisk walking, biking, aerobics, tennis, (a minimum recommendation
of 25-30 minutes a day)
- Strength Training Exercise: weight lifting, uphill training (walking, running, hiking up
- Stretching Exercise: pre- and after workout stretches retain flexibility. Try yoga and pilates.
- Balance Exercise: use a balance ball for core exercises or stand on one foot without support.
- Meditative Exercise: reduce stress with yoga and tai chi.
5 Keys to Exercise Success:
- Dream big and set realistic goals. If you’re not use to exercise don't try to run a marathon
right away. Create a step-by-step plan to increase your stamina, strength and stability. Too
much, too soon can end up causing injuries. Gradually work up to your dream achievement, such
as participating in the Senior Olympics or climbing Pikes Peak.
- Exercise daily. Create your own special time for exercise every day. Whether it’s a morning
jog through the neighborhood, a mid-day walk with the dog or an afternoon swim at your local
gym, daily exercise is much more effective at reaping healthy benefits than the “weekend warrior”
approach. Exports recommend 25-30 minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise every day just to
maintain your current weight. If you are trying to loose weight, extend your workout time to
- Be aware of your body. If you feel soreness or a slight achy feeling in your muscles, that’s
OK. Your body is responding to a good workout. Use ice therapy to ease small aches and pains,
and to reduce inflammation. A few 20-minute sessions with a cold pack and you should be ready
for your next daily workout. Never use heat on stressed or strained muscles, as it will increase
pain and swelling, slowing recovery time. Heat is appropriate to relax tight muscles. If you
experience serious problems such as extreme pain, fainting, numbness in arms or legs, or chest
pain, seek medical attention immediately.
- Stay well hydrated. Always a consideration for any athlete, dehydration can pose a serious
problem in older athletes as aging bodies contain less body water. Sweating and exposure to
heat can easily deplete the body of fluids. Drink plenty of liquids before, during and after
- Be a health leader! Encourage others through example and participation. Be positive and
motivated. An enthusiastic attitude is contagious! It will also keep you going running through
puddles on a rainy day; surviving aching legs on a downhill descent; or arriving at the finish
line of your first race!
Keep in mind the words of 90-year old Jack LaLanne, “I work at living, not dying”.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment
or consultation. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury.
About the author:
Louise Roach is the editor of on-line health and fitness newsletter, NewsFlash*SnowPack. Her
injury prevention and treatment articles have been published on numerous health and fitness websites.
Louise is 47 years old, an avid hiker, exercise enthusiast and recent running convert. For more
information visit: http://www.snowpackusa.com