Featured in BoomNC Magazine
Get out and exercise…regularly. Despite tremendous advances in modern medicine, there is no better piece of medical advice that doctors can give to their patients. The benefits of regular exercise have been proven in countless medical studies; however, sports medicine experts who treat aging recreational athletes have recognized a disturbing trend. Many middle-aged patients, in trying to maintain the active lifestyles of their youth, are over-stressing aging body parts to the point that drastic treatments often including surgery are required. The condition has been termed “Boomeritis” as it mainly afflicts the 45-64 year-old age group.
As highlighted at a recent medical meeting, there has been a dramatic rise in joint replacement surgeries in middle-aged patients. Typically, this type of surgery is associated with the Medicare population. However, over the last 10 years there was a three-fold increase in knee replacements performed in the 45-64 year-old age group. As people strive to combat the effects of aging via exercise, overuse injuries are occurring more frequently.
As we age, changes occur in the structure of our muscles, tendons, and joints. As much we may desire to maintain a certain level of activity, a 55 year-old body is just not the same as a 25 year-old’s. While this fact of life is by no means a reason to avoid physical activity altogether, it does showcase the need for a healthier and more informed approach to exercise.
Consider the following guidelines to help avoid time off from activity due to age-related aches and pains. Remember, exercise significantly benefits all age levels; however, the goal is to reap the benefits and avoid the risks of overuse.
- Stretch – All muscles and tendons in the body lose flexibility over time, making them stiff and more prone to injury. Develop a regular stretching routine that focuses on the back, hips, knees, and calf muscles. Stretch to where you feel a slight pull in the particular muscles and hold for 30 seconds.
- Low-impact exercise – Joint cartilage loses its ability to withstand repetitive impact as we age. While some people may be able to run regularly into their 80’s, this is a rarity. Activities such as biking, treadmill walking, using the elliptical machine and swimming are examples of lower impact activities that provide great cardiovascular exercise.
- Cross-train – Vary your exercise routines. Frequently mixing up your exercise regimen helps avoid placing too much stress on certain body parts. It also helps to keep exercise fun.
- Safe weight training – Lifting weights is an important part of a fitness routine, especially as we age, but doing so incorrectly can increase your risk of overuse injuries. Avoid unnecessary stress on joints by lifting weights in a comfortable range of motion. Focus on large muscle groups such as the chest, shoulders, back, and hips to limit stress on individual muscles.
- Core strengthening – Regularly do exercises involving the abdominal and lower back muscles. A strong core gives your body a strong foundation and can limit the incidence of low back pain.
- Treat activity-related inflammation – Should joint pain or muscle soreness arise, ice the affected area for 15 minutes after exercise to reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatories can be used regularly for 5-7days to reduce irritation.
- Listen to your body – Sharp pain during exercise or pain that continues into the next day is your body’s way of telling to you that you are overdoing it. Everyone’s threshold for injury is different, and the goal is to find a program that reaps the benefits of exercise while limiting harmful side effects.
Dr. Matthew Boes is a sports medicine expert at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic in Raleigh, NC. For more information, please visit Dr. Boes’ website at www.matthewboesmd.com