Some say that one of the keys to living a long and healthy life is to stay active and exercise well into old age. But for many people, by the time they get to age 50, they find that their body has declined — joints hurt, muscles are stiff and they just don’t have the stamina they did before.
Fortunately, there are things you can do right now to prevent those problems so you can look forward to many more years of all your favorite sports and activities. As an added benefit, by exercising and training as you age, you’ll make your “golden years” much more healthy and enjoyable.
GET GOOD NUTRITION
Eating the right kinds of food helps you maintain a healthy body weight, gives your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs and keeps your immune system in tip-top shape.
Eating the wrong kinds of food, however, can lead to weight gain and chronic inflammation, which could worsen aches and pains and impact your recovery.
Focus on eating whole foods — lean meats, lots of veggies and fruit and good sources of carbs — and drinking plenty of water.
GET QUALITY SLEEP
Many people struggle to get the necessary amount of sleep and ultimately rely on caffeinated drinks to help them get through the day.
If you’re pushing your body week after week, year after year, then you need to make sure you improve your sleep quantity and quality. That’s because deep sleep is when your body repairs and rebuilds itself from all your training and exercise.
Take the necessary steps to improve your sleep hygiene. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. Stop using electronics about an hour before bed because the bright lights interfere with your circadian rhythm. Invest in a high-quality mattress or mattress topper. (Considering you spend 1/3 of your life on a bed, it’s worth the investment.)
RELAX AND DESTRESS EVERY DAY
Stress from work, family, finances, etc., adds up fast. Stress puts a lot of strain on your autonomic nervous system, increases your stress hormones and negatively affects your health. This makes it to harder to recover from exercise, limits the results you’ll see and may even contribute to injuries and health problems.
To prevent this, take 10 minutes every day to decompress. Turn off your phone, close your computer, put in some earplugs or headphones, close your eyes and focus on breathing from your belly.
“LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY.”
Even with the best intentions, there will be moments when you get hurt or injured. Although it’s tempting — or even a badge of honor — to “push through the pain,” for long-term results, this is a bad idea.
Don’t just think about today’s game or today’s workout: Think about doing this for many, many years to come. If you tweak something in the gym or on the court, shut it down for the day. Rest, repair, recover and come back healthy and strong.
DO MORE LOW-INTENSITY WORKOUTS
Workouts like sprints intervals, heavy weights and intense circuits are great, but they’re also stressful on your body — everything from your joints to your nervous system needs time to rest and recover after hard-hitting training. But if you do them all the time, it will lead to fatigue and potentially cause injuries.
Instead, add at least 1–2 low-intensity workouts every week. For 20–40 minutes, do easy aerobic work to get the blood flowing, (which helps your muscles recover and improves your cardiovascular health), and finish with some gentle foam rolling, stretching and breathing. You’ll feel so much better when you leave the gym and be ready to go for your next high-intensity day.
The more you specialize in only one sport or one style of training, the more likely you’ll develop overuse injuries and muscle imbalances because of all the repetition.
Instead, break out of one-dimensional training and incorporate new sports, movements and skills into your life. For example, if you ski, try martial arts. If you’re a runner, then add swimming to your routine. If you love to lift weights, take dance classes once a week.
More variety is better and it’ll help you save your body from overuse for many years of exercise.
IMPROVE YOUR MOBILITY
As we age, our mobility and flexibility declines, which can increase the risk of injuries and make it harder to do the activities we love.
To enjoy plenty of exercise — no matter your age — take the time now to improve the range-of-motion in your body. Before every workout, do a dynamic warmup where you open your body and move properly. On your off-days, take a few minutes to stretch to help your body stay loose and mobile.