Authored by Dr. Eric Martin, Chairman, Garnet Health Medical Center Department of Orthopedics
I’m an aging runner who has managed to remain healthy enough to compete in triathlons. Five to six years ago, I was an average Joe who exercised intermittently. I found myself gaining weight and out of shape. Since then, I’ve managed to train my way to a fairly high level of competition. In my practice as an orthopedic surgeon with Garnet Health Doctors, and within my running community, I’ve found that people are interested in learning about how the body changes with age and what these changes require us to do to so they can keep on running, staying healthy and active.
While medical science has yet to fully understand why and how our bodies age – let alone find a cure– the good news is that anyone can do what I’ve done, and that the ability to slow the effects of aging are attainable even without training for a triathlon. I like the old adage, “Stronger people are harder to kill.” Exercise, including running, for me, has shown itself to be a great way to build strength and fitness, which can contribute to longevity by addressing the underlying issues that come with aging.
Tendons, Ligaments & Muscle Mass All Change As We Age
As we age, our bodies begin to lose certain natural abilities. Aerobic capacity begins to diminish. Strength and stamina begin to decline. We gradually become less flexible. Our tendons, ligaments, muscle mass all change as we age. We cannot stop that from happening, but exercise activities that strengthen ones aerobic capacity and related muscles can help keep us at or near our optimal level of fitness and slow the aging process. For causal exercisers, any type of exercise will deliver benefits, such as:
- Walking and running
- Moderate weightlifting – which can help maintain and build muscle mass for better strength and stability
A variety of activities that will get the whole body moving is the best way to go at every age. For aging athletes, this preventive approach – taking the time and making the efforts to keep your body strong – is the best way to maintain a healthy body best equipped to overcome issues of aging and heal faster after unexpected injuries.
Studies have shown that running can be a specifically healthful habit that can impact longevity and also benefit your cognition and mental function. If your body will allow, and if it is something you enjoy, a brisk jog is a great way of staying in motion, increasing aerobic capacity and building the strength that can keep you in top shape for your age.
How We Fuel Our Bodies Is Critical
It is all but impossible to out train a bad diet for anyone at any age, which is why daily decisions about how we fuel our bodies are so critical.
The day before a long run, breakfast is the champion; make it a good one full of healthy carbs. Follow that up with a moderate lunch and a small dinner. As a doctor and a runner, I will personally vouch for the effectiveness of this plan. It will keep you fueled, without having too much in your stomach as you set out.
On a long run, you begin to deplete your energy stores at about the hour mark. Anything beyond that – for example, if you know you’re going on a 2 hour run or more – you need to think about taking small amounts of carbs every 15 minutes. Many runners use edible gel packs. You can experiment to see what your body will tolerate, and what fuels you best.
Here’s a conundrum: We can’t perform at our peak if we’re dehydrated, but carrying a bulky water bottle can really have an effect when we’re trying to shave minutes off our race time. Hydration is a necessity for everyone, but whether or not to carry a bottle comes down to personal comfort. Happily, most races provide hydration stations along their routes. When training, I avoid carrying a bottle and instead do loops near my home so I can easily pop in and grab one when I need it. It doesn’t hold me up for too long, and I’m more comfortable running without one.
Until we have a better understanding of exactly how and why we age, there will always be plenty of claims out there about what may or may not be the “Fountain of Youth.” But, to date there’s no one medicine, no one diet, no single treatment that has shown as much benefit in slowing the aging process as simply continuing to use your body and get exercise as you grow older.
To stay as healthy as possible into your 40s, 50s and beyond, a great starting point is to discuss your current health and your goals with a medical professional. The primary care physicians of Garnet Health Doctors are available to consult at two locations: 475 Route 17M in Monroe and in the Outpatient Building on the campus of Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown. If you’d like to make an appointment for Orthopedic care, please call my office at 845-333-7575.
Eric L. Martin, M.D.
Dr. Martin is Board-certified in orthopedics by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons and is affiliated with Garnet Health Doctors. Dr. Martin earned his medical degree from New York University, completed both his general surgery internship and his residency at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stonybrook in addition to his reconstructive joint surgery fellowship from Rush University/St. Luke’s Medical Center & Central DuPage Hospital in Chicago, Ill.
To make an appointment with Dr. Martin, please call 845-333-7575
All content presented are provided for informational and educational purposes only, and are not intended to approximate or replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read within the website content. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.