Am I getting too old to do that?

Use it or Lose it!

A frequent statement I hear from many of my patients is – I am getting too old to do that (a sport or activity). In fact it seems to be common that people think that the older you get the less you should do and that you must give up certain activities. The evidence however paints a different picture.

As we age our bodies become less efficient at repairing damaged tissue. Our capacity to do physical tasks declines as does our flexibility and strength. Note I said Capacity, I did not say your actual strength. I mention this because every person has a certain potential and very few people actually achieve this (usually professional athletes/Olympians etc). Your potential is what declines not your current fitness or strength. Frequently our current strength and fitness declines because we are often more sedentary with advancing age, our jobs becomes less physical or we stop doing more vigorous activity ‘because we are getting older.’ I believe this contributes more to declining fitness than the age related decline. In other words: USE IT OR LOSE IT! If you do not maintain your strength and fitness it will decline due to disuse.

I frequently using the following analogy: If you owed an. older car, it can still provide reliable use but it will require more frequent servicing and repairs. Our bodies are no different; if you wish maintain a certain level of activity it will require more effort with increased age to maintain your body. The point I am trying to make is that you can continue to do most things if you put the effort in to maintaining your body and fitness for that activity.

That is where Functional Movement screens (FMS) and maintenance programmes come in. These are the human version of a full service for your car only checking your body for imbalances and movement patterns that increase your injury risk and advance degenerative changes (i.e. Arthritis). This has been found to be so effective that the United States Military and many Professional sports teams use it on all their recruits and athletes. It is also useful for screening prior to starting exercise after periods of inactivity or for minimising injury risks prior start a physically demanding job.

Common sense must still prevail however when using the Use it or Lose it approach. Older athletes do have more injuries and take longer to recover and cannot compete with their younger counterparts. Therefore attempting to enter Premiership Rugby at 40 may not be wise, but playing Presidents grade Rugby should be ok but you will have to do more maintenance exercises to prevent injuries and sustain fitness.

If you are thinking of return to sport or exercise after a period of inactivity seek the advice of a professional (such as a FMS certified Physiotherapist) who can advise you how to increase your fitness and strength for your chosen activity while minimising your injury and enhancing your performance!

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