Exercising as you age: don't stop, be smart

You're not as young as you used to be. You feel it when you're out for a run with your dog or out on the golf course with friends.

However, exercise plays a significant role for improving your sleep, increasing your energy and preventing illness, especially as you age.

Even more critical is working out the right way.

After you pass the half-century mark, a broken bone or a strained muscle can come on more easily and impact you for longer. These days, you might have to put in twice the effort to avoid injury, but it's worth it.

Here are a few tips to remember:

Always warm up before a workout

This doesn't mean you have to do a full-body stretch. In fact, that can do more harm than good before a workout.

Do a warmup that utilizes the muscles you will be using in your actual workout. For example, jog slowly before you run.

Stretch after a workout

Contrary to what you may have been taught, after a workout is the best time for a full stretch. This will increase your range of motion, improve your flexibility and enhance the blood and nutrient supply to your muscles.

And bonus: You won't be as sore the next day as you might have been otherwise.

Don't overdo it: Rest is key

Take at least one day off from exercise each week. Your body needs rest, and you will feel refreshed and ready to get back in the groove after you take the time to relax.

Maintain a proper diet

Maintain healthy eating habits to provide your body with the fuel it needs.

Choose lean meats, drink plenty of water and eat whole grains and ample fruits and veggies. Pay attention to portion sizes too.

Exercising is easier when you're not carrying around excess body fat.

Equip yourself with the right gear

In particular, be sure you're sporting the proper footwear. Shoes that are too old can cause ankle sprains and heel pain.

Nowadays, staff at specialized athletic stores will watch the way you move and suggest footwear accordingly. Take advantage of these consultations, which are often free of charge.

Look out for arthritis

If you suffer from symptoms such as joint pain, inflammation in your wrists and hands or joint stiffness, you may have a form of arthritis.

You may be tempted to brush away this pain, but it is a musculoskeletal disorder that needs to be taken seriously.

Let your medical doctor know, as a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon or rheumatologist may be necessary for further evaluation.

He or she can recommend specific endurance and resistance workouts that might be beneficial for you - including water aerobics and biking because they're low impact, or golf because it focuses on the hands and wrists.

Of course, prior to starting or making any changes to a diet or exercise regimen, consult with your medical doctor.

As nice as it might be to sit on the couch, turn on the television and watch younger athletes play the sports you've always loved, being active yourself will give you an even better buzz.

Don't let your age be your enemy. Proper exercise and nutrition can help you feel younger and more invigorated.

• Dr. Ravi Bashyal is an orthopaedic surgeon at NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute and a specialist in minimally invasive hip and knee replacement surgery.

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