Orange & Rockland Medical Center

The Aging Athlete 

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Orange & Rockland Medical Center

 

Dr. Eric Martin

The “aging athlete” is anyone who pursues athletic endeavors, whether competitively or not, as they age. Some of these athletes want to be able to play pick-up basketball with their kids or grandkids; others, sometimes called weekend warriors, play in recreational leagues. Some train rigorously for officially sanctioned events and organizations like U.S. Masters Swimming, which welcomes swimmers over age 25, or even the Senior Olympic Games, for competitors age 50 and older.

No matter their level of competitive engagement, all aging athletes have the same thing in common: their bodies age. Our faculties naturally decline as we age: muscle strength, respiratory and cardiovascular capacity, flexibility – they all diminish as time goes on. The good news is that the speed at which these things decline can be significantly decreased with a baseline understanding of the factors at hand and by training to offset this natural decline. In fact, studies have shown that people in their nineties can achieve gains in both cardiovascular fitness and strength through training.

I am an aging athlete myself. For those of us who continue to train as we get older, we may notice that intensity becomes harder to maintain. The tendency is then to back off the intensity and try to continue making advances through duration. Increasingly, research shows that intensity is actually a positive way to slow-down or reverse some aspects of the normal aging process. We just need to be careful not to stress our bodies too much.

To maximize the health and competitive benefits of training, it is critical that aging athletes take certain precautions to avoid injury. Obviously, any underlying cardiovascular issues or history of orthopedic issues that you may have should be evaluated by your physician prior to beginning a workout regimen. I also advise patients looking to jump into new physical activity later in life to consult with a trainer or physical therapist to learn how to exercise correctly, focusing especially on proper form.

Recovery times also lengthen as we age. Twenty-year-olds can compete all day, get a little sore, and do it all again the next day. Not so much for aging athletes. Being sore after an activity is okay, but attention must be paid to getting adequate rest and stretching to get the most from our recovery periods and keep us from overtaxing our bodies. 

What goes for the aging athlete, should be taken as sound advice for anyone who values their vitality: good health and longevity require vigilance and maintenance. Whether you’re taking part in athletic competitions or not, being active makes you stronger, and that makes it harder for whatever medical issues you may come across in your life to get the upper hand.

 

About Eric Martin, MD 
Chairman, Orange Regional Medical Center Department of Orthopedics 

Eric L. Martin, M.D. joined the medical staff of Orange Regional Medical Group and Catskill Regional Medical Group in 2015. He 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. He has held academic appointments as clinical assistant professor at New York University/Hospital for Joint Diseases, Stony Brook University and Touro Medical College in Middletown, N.Y.

Dr. Martin, who is Board-certified in orthopedics by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons is also a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He is a member of the New York State PBA Surgeons, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, American Medical Association, New York State Orthopaedic Society, Orange County Medical Society and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is the author or co-author of 11 abstract presentations and publications focusing on various aspects of orthopedic surgery. For more information visit, orangeregionalmedicalgroup.org. To make an appointment with Dr. Martin, please call 845-333-7575.

Orange & Rockland Medical Center