We’ve all been inspired by the stories of a man in his 70’s who runs a marathon or a woman in her 60’s who enters body-building competitions. For some, good genes and dedication to healthy living have provided quite an edge when it comes to being active beyond their "days of youth."

However, the majority of us may find that many of the activities we once took for granted are becoming a little more challenging as we age. Still, most older adults enjoy being active—whether it’s swimming, biking, hiking, running, yoga, Pilates, weight training, walking or all of the above. And we all know it’s good for us! 

So, as an “aging athlete” how can you make sure your body can keep up with your mind’s drive and desire to stay active? Here are three “golden” rules to start with.

1: Focus on the Benefits of Physical Activity as You Age

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help prevent or delay many health problems that seem to come with age by:

  • Reducing risk of disease
  • Strengthening bones and muscles
  • Managing weight
  • Improving brain health
  • Making day-to-day activities easier

The CDC recommends adults aged 65 and older need:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking,  or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running
  • At least 2 days per week of activities that strengthen muscles
  • Activities to improve balance, like standing on one foot

2: Understand How to Respond When Your Mind Says “Yes,” But Your Body Says “No.”

It’s no surprise that adults who are extremely active typically want to stay active. But as we age, our body may have other plans. New aches and pains or an unexpected injury can derail a fitness routine at any age, but we may find this occurring more often as the years go by. Additionally, it may take longer to recover after a workout, or you may notice your pace slowing or your endurance dwindling. Why is this?
While everyone is different, we can’t escape the fact that as we age, muscles can lose size and strength, bones change and can become less dense, and joints can become stiffer and less flexible. Believe it or not on average, we lose 30% of our muscle mass over our lifetime! 
The good news is that physical activity can slow down or prevent many of these age-related changes! Studies have shown exercise can make bones stronger, improve balance and coordination, increase muscle mass and strength, and maintain joint flexibility.
But take caution. There are times when a nagging injury—such pain in your knee, hip or elbow, or a degenerative condition like spinal stenosis, or arthritic joints—makes your once beloved activity no longer possible. In such a case, don’t give up. Instead heed rule #3.

3: Identify the Cause of Your Pain

It’s important to recognize the difference between pain from an injury, which comes on quickly and is sharp and persistent, and soreness in the muscles, which is temporary, comes on slowly, and feels more like a burning or tightness. If you are experiencing acute pain, or consistent pain or inflammation, visit an orthopedic specialist who can assess exactly what is going on.

Once the cause is diagnosed, an orthopedic specialist can help get you on a treatment plan. This may include, for example, physical therapy to strengthen certain muscles, or targeted treatment for back pain or arthritis in your neck. 

Unless you have an injury or condition that requires complete rest or possibly surgery, being active is the best thing you can do! However, your orthopedic specialist may suggest varying your routine, trying a new activity, or adding new exercises to help maximize your efforts while still helping you achieve your goals.

As an “aging athlete” you are already ahead of the game. You have the mindset for exercise and dedication to remaining active, and you’ve experienced the many rewards physical activity can offer. No matter what your age, there are activities you can do to keep you mentally and physically fit, while respecting the toll age may be taking on your body.

Garnet Health offers a comprehensive approach to orthopedic care that includes diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Garnet Health Doctors orthopedic specialists—with expertise in a wide range of injuries and conditions—will help relieve your pain with advanced orthopedic procedures, so you can keep you doing the activities you love. Visit to learn more or call 845-333-7575 to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.

Eric Martin, MD
By Eric Martin, MD

Dr. Martin is the Medical Director for Surgical Specialties at Garnet Health Doctors. He is Board-certified in Orthopedics by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons and is also a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Dr. Martin earned his medical degree from New York University, completed both his general surgery internship and his residency at Stony Brook University in addition to his reconstructive joint surgery fellowship from Rush University/St. Luke's Medical Center & Central DuPage Hospital in Chicago, Ill.

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