Staying Fit (From your young-at-heart sports doctor)


A sports doctor/ fitness enthusiast shares some exercise pointers for the fit and regular exerciser, the once-in-a-while exerciser, the non-exerciser, and seniors

By Edgar Michael T. Eufomio, MD

I reached a milestone a few years back – I turned 50! I’m not thrilled about it but I’m making the most of it. Hitting 40 was different; it was like “Well, 80 seems attainable, so maybe I am just at the halfway point.”

Realistically, I am not going to reach 100. So, this is it… the homestretch. Most of us have already achieved what they have set out to do but there is nothing to stop all of us from believing the best is yet to come. And that includes our health.

Sure, we no longer have the strength, speed and stamina of our heydays but we are not quite ready to throw in the towel. I would say more than half of us will still be into fitness and exercise. Not as hard core as before but two to three times a week – some cardio, some resistance programs or some classes. Ten to twenty percent will still be into competitive sports like basketball, football, volleyball, triathlons, running and biking. Some will be the “occasional” workout individual (“If I have time, if I am not too tired or if my friends and family invite me”). The rest, maybe 20 percent (and progressively decreasing), have all the excuses why they do not exercise.

The fit and regular exerciser

For those in the first category, congratulations! You understand the importance of staying healthy and are cognizant that you are no longer a spring chicken. My advice is to add some variety to your routine; sometimes, boredom is the enemy. Pick something you enjoy, mix it up and train with people you like. These include your trainer and gym mates. Oh, some prefer to be left alone and that is fine too.

The competitive person does not have to be forced to get out of bed and head to the nearest court or sports facility. If ever, my concern is they tend to overdo it. They forget they are no longer teenagers and still go for it with gusto. The once impeccable physique tends to gradually break down and the risk of injuries increases. I stress the importance of rest so the body can mend. A sports recovery center is designed to address this, with all the latest gadgets (induction system, radiofrequency, high intensity laser, shockwave and cryotherapy) and experts to help you keep up with the youngsters and continue to break personal records.

Of course you do need all the help you can get. You still have to eat right, hydrate properly and, please, do include multivitamins and supplements in your diet.

For the once-in-a-while people, I suggest you get an executive check up. A lot of times, you just need to be jolted by poor lab results to start you on the road to a healthier lifestyle. Do it with your friends, family and relatives and plan things together. Get tips from your internist, a personal trainer, a nutritionist and your sports doctor (“If they do not at least look healthy, go elsewhere for advice”). If your numbers are within normal limits and your blood pressure is okay, no need to do much; your genes have saved you.

The “couch potato”

For the last group, the standard defense is that they work too hard and do not have the time and energy to go to the gym. Not much we can do for them. At least they will have a lot of money when they eventually get admitted to the ICU and they get to pick a really expensive place to get buried. Well, all is not lost. Please refer to the last sentence of the previous paragraph and start praying.

Around eight percent of our more than 8 million population in the Philippines are above sixty years old. That comes out to approximately seven million Filipino senior citizens. With people living potentially longer lives, we must be prepared to deal with the effect this has on health care.

These folks also need to keep fit. Obviously, they require this for health reasons. As one ages, it is, more importantly, a source of recreation, socialization and fun.

Ask any grandparent, the main benefit they derive from exercise is independence – to do what they want, when they want to do it. By themselves… With decreased demands for supervision come improved confidence and better quality of life.

A certain fraction of our populace train their whole lives. Some go through cycles of enthusiasm and boredom. Then again, there are those who decide to revert to a healthy lifestyle only after they retire. They, as well as the personnel tasked to care for them, must understand that older athletes fatigue easier and recover slower. So the general rule is to start low and slow…

For those in their 60’s to 70’s, I strongly recommend activities that help improve endurance. These include brisk walking, swimming, biking and even light jogging. But please incorporate a strengthening program too.

80’s and older

My patients always seem surprised when I tell them that for those in their 80’s, I prefer to concentrate on programs that promote strength, coordination and balance. These include using dumbbells, resistance bands and suspension cables as well as Yoga, Pilates and Tai-Chi. Our biggest concern in this age group is the prevention of falls. Genetics-wise, it is safe to assume that this person is already blessed with good health so cardiovascular workouts are treated as a bonus.

Getting started is difficult enough, sticking with a routine is an even bigger challenge. Adherence to a training schedule is affected by:

1) Opportunities for social interaction – Join groups where you can talk or have a light snack when you are done. That way, you look forward to exercising.
2) Interest level – It always helps if the pastime picked is appealing to the individual.
3) Money – Pick something within your price range.

Tips as you begin

Always start with a medical clearance. Approach your internist and get a clean bill of health first. For those with musculo-skeletal concerns, a visit to a physiatrist or orthopedic surgeon may be helpful. The elderly tend to have problems like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, low back pain and tendinitis. The last thing you want to happen is to get all excited about getting healthy and then you get worse.

Learn the basics. Go to a physician, a gym or a sports facility. You need to get a good grasp of warming up, stretching and cooling down.

Individualize. What works for the goose will not necessarily work for the gander. We also have different recovery times when it comes to injuries and heavy work outs. Same goes for mastering a skill or movement. Give yourself time frames to work with but do not compare yourself to others.

Pick something that requires rhythm and uses large muscle groups.

Avoid regimens that include heavy impact, sudden bursts, contact and excessive competition.

Have a safe environment. Check for cords and loose rugs, avoid slippery and dark areas.

So, to my fellow Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers, let us all go for quality AND quantity of life. See you in the gym!

“Getting started is difficult enough, sticking with a routine is an even bigger challenge”

January 2019 Health and Lifestyle

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