BY DR. LISA GOODMAN, DC, CCSP, CACCP, CF-L
Sensitive topic right? What I see daily in my practice (and in the mirror) are 40+ year olds who are behaving like 20-30 year olds. In case you hadn’t noticed, here in Denver, we don’t slow down. I am 43, play soccer once a week, CrossFit 4x/week and even enter competitions a few times a year. Many of you are skiing 50 days/year, running ultra races, playing basketball and volleyball like you did in your heyday. Don’t for one second think that I am suggesting you stop. Quite the contrary, I want all of you to keep going for as long as you can. That being said, hasn’t the thought crossed your mind? Haven’t you noticed that you maybe don’t recover as quickly as you used to? There are reasons for that. Read on to see what the heck is happening to us after 40 and how we can continue to be the go-so-hard athletes we are.
The Merck Manual defines three concepts of age:
Chronologic – Our actual age in years.
Biologic – Our body’s age based on wear and tear, lifestyle and body maintenance.
Physiologic – Our age based on how we act and feel. Our mindset.
Note to self – There is a lot of truth to the adage, “you are only as old as you FEEL”. It is so important to keep in mind that we have a lot of control over how we age. Starting now.
As we age, our cartilage wears down which means joints don’t slide as well as they used to. Joints also become more stiff and lose range of motion due to ligaments and tendons becoming more rigid and brittle. This is all due to loss of hydration within the joints and eventually leads to osteoarthritis. Unfortunately the fix is not as simple as drinking more water. The best thing you can do to promote hydrated joints are:
• Move your joints through a full range of motion daily (ie. arm circles, hip circles, ankle and wrist circles, etc.)
• Compress your joints under load often (ie. squats, pushups)
• Avoid activities that cause your joints to swell or cause pain
• Take a good joint supplement starting NOW – you may not see the benefits for 15 years, but a really good supplement will accumulate to make meaningful changes in your joint health. I recommend Synovix DJD from Xymogen.
• Decrease dairy and sugar in your diet
• Increase fish, oils, and cherries in your diet
Starting around age 30 we start to lose muscle (don’t worry, it is gradual). The number of muscle fibers as well as the size of muscle fibers progressively decreases. This loss of muscle strength actually puts more strain on certain joints including the knee which also increases the risk of arthritis and falling. The good news is that we can slow down this process by continuing to build muscle! The best ways to build muscle are:
• Strength and Resistance Training – Make it difficult, if it is too easy it is likely not making enough of a change. Local solutions include Pearl Street Fitness, E3, CrossFit WashPark, Alt Fitness and Denver Gym and Fitness
• Increase protein in your diet (organic meats, chicken and eggs)
Endurance and stamina also decrease over the age of 40. The best way to maintain your endurance and even improve is with regular cardiovascular exercise
• Rowing, biking and swimming will provide the maximum benefit to your heart and lungs
• While walking is lower impact, it is also lower benefit, if you are able to walk fast and get your heart rate up you can maximize the benefits of walking
• Running is great for your heart and lungs and can be good for your joints. If you have a history of knee or hip pain that worsens with running, it may not be a good choice for you. Pro-tip: Sprinting will maximize your muscle power, endurance and stamina. Try intervals such as sprinting 200m and jogging 200m for a mile
The bad news, your metabolism slows down about 5% every 10 years after 40 which means we burn calories slower. This happens because mitochondria (which convert food into energy) in our muscles die out as we age. The good news is, the more muscle we have on our body, the more efficient our metabolism is!
• Decrease your calorie intake by 100 cals/day (decreasing dairy
intake will do it)
• Increase your muscle mass (see above)
• Increase protein in your diet and drink plenty of water
Now that you have set yourself up to slow down the degenerative process of your body, it is important to pay attention to how often you are implementing your fitness and what you are doing on rest days. Athletes in their 20s and 30s can easily work out 6-7 days/week and even include two works/day in some cases! That is not a great idea for most of us over 40. Here are few recommendations, see what fits you best.
• Work out every other day
• Alternate weight training days with cardio days
• Two days on / one day off
Body work should not be ignored! Paying attention to your joints, muscles and nervous system is invaluable to decreasing the effects of aging. I can’t say this enough – invest in your body, it is the only one you have.
• Chiropractic Adjustments are the only way to impact joint mobility and hydrate your joints. Every time the joint is ‘popped’ it allows fluid back in the joint and breaks up adhesions causing arthritis. Recommend 1-2x/month
• Massage flushes out waste from muscles and stimulates blood flow which improves healing, recovery and muscle building. Recommend 1-2x/month
• Acupuncture improves your mental outlook and nerve communication throughout the system improving balance and coordination. Recommend 1-2x/month
• NormaTec compression therapy is an intense squeezing sensation on your arms of legs which promote significant blood flow and recovery after workouts. Recommend weekly.
A Word about Bones…
At this age we are not super concerned about bone density, but if you’d like to get ahead of the degenerative process I recommend two simple things. A really good multi-mineral calcium supplement such as Ossopan by Xymogen and actual weight bearing exercise with actual heavyish weights. Walking won’t do it! Need help? Find a good personal trainer to get you on the right track.
A Word about Injury
You are only as old as you feel! Until you get injured. There is no reason to anticipate injury, however it is statistically more likely to happen over 40. If you feel a muscle pull or a joint ache that isn’t resolving within a week, back off your fitness until it heals! Seek evaluation and treatment from your sports chiropractor, physical therapist or orthopedist before returning to fitness. They can also put you on a modified program to help you heal before returning to your favorite sports/activities.
Do We Really Fall Apart After 40?
Yes. Our body slowly, incrementally and decidedly degenerates around age 40 and there is no way to stop it. Hopefully, you now realize that with the right mindset, fitness plan, nutrition and body work you can drastically slow down the process. The good news – all of that makes life more fun anyway.