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1st Oct


We All Age- Are You Prepared? Seven Steps to Feel and Be Your Best

In past newsletters, I have described what occurs to our bodies as we age, and how we can best deal with this unavoidable aging process. I would encourage you to read some of these past issues posted on my website. Today, I want to give you a practical check list, of 7 steps you can take, to maximize your chances of being able to stay active for as long as possible, with the least amount of pain or discomfort. Just as our house and cars require maintenance, so does our body.

While we seemingly can get away with not exercising in young adulthood, this is no longer the case after we enter our 30s, and such need for regular exercise to remain healthy and feel good increases exponentially each decade thereafter (it should be noted, that bone strength later in life, especially in females, is largely enhanced by starting exercise already in our early teenage years). Although I’m discussing musculoskeletal health here, this is true for general health as well.

As joint and tendon connective tissues start to wear as we age, they need to be regularly stimulated, to maintain elasticity, strength and lubrication. Exercise at least 3-4 times per week is recommended, in addition to daily light activities such as walking, and gentle pain free stretching.

High impact exercise, such as jumping, even running, mogul skiing or aggressive water sports, or other activities which cause sudden compression on our joints and spinal discs, accelerate any arthritic wear in our joints or disc degeneration that may have started already (essentially universal by the time we turn 50). If there is any joint discomfort or swelling during or after activities, or you know that you have such wear and tear, make a change to sports or activities with lower impact. Examples would be to switch from singles tennis or racquetball to doubles, or take up pickleball. Instead of running, work out on an elliptical trainer or bicycle, or make a change to swimming. Hiking and walking are also better tolerated.

High exercise intensity, especially plyometrics such as jumping; forceful overhead exercises or sports; aggressive golf swings; powerful lunges; quick cuts and stops; and heavy exercise resistance all tax our tendons and muscles the most. Up to 70% of all energy stored in muscles is used to rebuild the tissues (regeneration), necessary to remain healthy. This energy reserve is quickly depleted with high intensity exercise. Therefore, especially after turning 50, back off on high intensity exercises, and gradually reduce the intensity each decade. Instead of using heavy weights with 8-10 repetitions or less, do 15-20 or even 20-25 repetitions with lighter weights and slower movements. This can still build strength. The principle of reducing high intensity exercise, of course also applies to daily activities such as heavy labor, unless it is your occupation and you have no choice.

As we lose muscle cells when we age (50% in an untrained 60 year old compared to an untrained 20 year old), we can not get away with training as hard as we used to. In addition to decreasing the exercise intensity, we need more rest to recover,. A good frequency for resistance training (this also includes e.g. Pilates exercise, strength yoga, and many forms of martial arts) is twice a week, whereas aerobic cardiovascular exercise can be done more often, at least three times per week. Recreational tennis and racquetball players in their 50s and beyond typically would be advised to limit their playing to twice a week, and recreational golfers to once a week.

On the topic of rest, good solid sleep at night is also of great importance, as this is the time that the body does most of its rebuilding of tissues.

Besides being important to maintain a good body weight, a healthy diet can effectively reduce low level chronic inflammation in our body, which is often present for a variety of reasons as we age, including degenerative arthritis. Foods that increase our blood sugar, or are otherwise pro-inflammatory, can significantly increase pain perceived from joints and tendons.

Such foods include most processed foods; sweets; foods with a high glycemic index such as fruit juices (instead eat berries), potatoes, pasta, bread and many grains, as well as red meat, and any foods that you are sensitive or slightly allergic to. More anti-inflammatory foods include legumes such as lentils and beans (best prepared in a pressure cooker), nuts, a vegetable based diet, cold water fish such as salmon and other beneficial oils, and a Mediterranean diet. For more information or a nutritional consult, visit

Stress is a consequence of life, which can not be avoided, and some is even helpful, if for short periods of time. However, we can learn to control stress in many ways, including with exercise, meditation, nature walks, yoga, deep breathing, and having a positive attitude (believing that the stress is not harmful to you).

We know that stress acts as an amplifier of sensory input to our brain, and can significantly increase muscle tension, and pain perceived from joints and other tissues.

It is very important even for the musculoskeletal system that all our organs are functioning properly, and that we are not developing some illness, which otherwise can activate our immune system, and create a chronic inflammatory response. This is also very much the case with your dental health and hygiene.

If we have developed advanced bone on bone arthritis which is causing considerable pain, get a referral to an orthopedic specialist, as joint replacement surgery may be an option, which can significantly improve your activity and comfort level. Make sure you don’t skip or cut down on the rehabilitation afterwards.

Also, if you have battled with a painful musculoskeletal condition for some time, see your physical therapist, who may be able to alleviate your symptoms and design a program for you, to better manage your condition.

There are many other components to aging gracefully and happily, however these are some of the major ones. Please feel free to share this newsletter with others.

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