Masters Athletes are people who are exercise-trained and compete on a high level past what is commonly accepted as a competitive age. The designation, which varies by sport, typically begins at 35 and is measured in five-year increments. There are also individuals who remain active, and even athletic into midlife and beyond, and for both of these groups of people exercise is critical not only for maintaining a competitive edge, but for longevity and vitality in general.

When I present my Aging Athlete seminars at Orange Regional Medical Center, I stress the importance of maintaining a regular course of exercise and focus on different types, their applications and benefits.

When it comes to the aging population, the incredible benefits of strength training cannot be stressed enough. Basically, the stronger we remain, the more mobility and balance we retain. When it comes to the activities of lifestyle, these are critical. Staying strong allows us to take care of ourselves longer, maintain our normal daily activities, live longer, avoid injury better, decreases our risk of chronic diseases and myriad other health benefits.

Any exercise regimen should include a mix of cardiovascular and strength training. The U.S. Health Department recommends about two and half hours of moderate exercise and about an hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity a week. As part of that schedule, strength training should be done at variable intensities, for variable durations and at variable frequencies. Simply put, you should be lifting weights at different times and in different ways for optimal benefits – adjusting higher and lower repetitions, opting for higher or lower weights.

I often recommend my aging patients focus on their lower extremities, because keeping your legs strong allows us to be safer as we are mobile, moving throughout our environments as we age. Again, a lot of this has to do with balance, maintaining overall range of motion and being able to go where we want to go, when we need to go there. This evidence has been easier to collect from studies involving athletes, but we can pass the quantifiable information along to people who simply want to stay healthy for the long term. So, while we are oftentimes talking about athletes, what we learn from that subset is very applicable to people interested in everyday wellness.

I’ve become known for telling my seminar attendees that “the stronger you are, the harder you are to kill.” It’s a blunt but lighthearted way of pointing out that we’re all going to develop medical issues as we get older, and the stronger we are the more adept we will be at handling those underlying medical issues that come to us all. Strength training also has positive impacts on our bone health, and multiple recent studies have shown it to have positive effects on our mental health and wellbeing.

The preventive and healing benefits of exercise, as I said, cannot be stressed enough. Put plainly, the ability to be able to exercise is our most valuable capability as we age, and we should all endeavor to hold onto it for as long as possible.

People interested in learning more about the relationship between regular exercise, overall health and longevity are invited to attend the next event in our ongoing series of “Aging Athlete” seminars. We will cover the topic of Strength Training during our upcoming seminar on Wednesday, September 11. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. on the campus of Orange Regional Medical Center, at 707 East Main Street in Middletown. The seminar will take place in the Ground Floor Conference Rooms 1, 2 and 3. To register, visit, or call 1-888-321-ORMC (6762).

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