You might have been fearless in your youth, but now that you've breached 50, you're almost walking on eggshells. You know, waiting for those slip and fall incidents or muscle strains society deems us fit for now. Many of the bravest men and women of their time almost cave into themselves with fear of injury and illness as they get older. And it's sad to see people succumb to the cliché of old age. We would like to share a secret with you: While injuries and illness are more common as you age, they don't have to be a fact of life.
Table of Contents:
Having the Right Mindset
Your mindset is vitally important in this one. If you hold up your hands in defeat at the first glimpse of aging and concede that life will now be about injuries, aches, pains, and illness, then that's the life you will probably have. There's a fantastic life quote that goes, "If you think you can or if you think you can't, you're right," and it couldn't be more applicable to aging. You won't get very far with a defeatist mindset, but focusing on the positive and making wise lifestyle choices will put you on the opposite end of the spectrum, which is not sick and not so prone to injuries, by the way.
Living a life that's less prone to injury and illness is to ensure your body is strong, fit, and healthy. A strong and healthy body is resilient against injuries and strong when illnesses come looking for a good host. Understanding the most common injuries and illnesses that sneak up on 50+ers is a good strategy for mitigating them. If you know what to expect, you can make the appropriate lifestyle changes – that's the concept, at least. See the article we wrote on how to kickstart your way back to health in 7 days.
Common illnesses and injuries after 50:
• High blood pressure
• Back pain
• Meniscus tear
• Heart disease
• Rotator cuff injury
• Pelvic fractures
• Shoulder Bursitis
• Eye-sight problems
• Tennis elbow
• Hearing problems
• Lower back pain
• Bladder problems
Exercise and the immune system
A scientific review in the Journal of Health and Sport Science in 2019 found that exercise reduces inflammation, lowers the risk of illness, and improves your immune response. This study was based on doing at least one hour of exercise per day. According to DrPH David Nieman, a professor at the Appalachian State University, humans have a limited number of immune cells floating around their bodies at any given time. These immune cells are typically found in the lymphoid tissues and organs (the spleen is a favorite of theirs) that destroy the likes of bacteria, viruses, and disease-causing microorganisms.
While doing strength training exercises, your body's blood and lymph flow increase as your muscles contract. This increases the number of immune cells circulating the body. Of course, you cannot do strength training once and expect a miraculous result. While you immediately benefit from an immune boost directly after exercising, this does eventually simmer down, and then you have to do it all over again. Nieman recommends daily exercise for best results. You may find Nieman's study in the 2011 British Journal of Sports Medicine quite interesting. In his study, Nieman found that people who did moderate exercise at least five times a week for three months reduced their chances of getting a common cold by more than 40%.
So now we know that strength training can boost your immune system and help you ward off pesky colds and illnesses. The next question is how can strength training help you avoid the relatively long list of injuries you can experience after 50?
We found an interesting study published in the National Library of Medicine. In summary, this is what the study's findings were:
Strength-training overcomes frailty and weakness.
Doing strength training 2 to 3 days per week improves muscle strength, builds muscle mass, and preserves bone density.
Strength training reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Strength training reduces many chronic disease symptoms, including arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes.
Strength training improves sleep and reduces depression.
Quality of Life and its relationship with exercise
"Quality of life" is a term we start to hear quite a lot as we near the big 5-0. It's almost the catch-phrase of the era; the 45-50 era, that is. In fact, this quality-of-life thing becomes even more pertinent as we near 60 and beyond. We're all getting a lot more interested in how much quality our life will offer us in our older years. Now that we're getting older and we have more time to do the things we want to do while we're also a little less agile, we're worried about how comfortable we're going to be and how much enjoyment we're going to, well, enjoy. And for all intents and purposes, this is a very valid focus for our thoughts. If you've been worried about your quality of life, you're not alone in your thinking; in fact, we've been there. We worried that as empty nesters, our lives would become a blur of one night phasing into the next, eating convenience microwave meals, and watching game shows on television. We feared that our only hope of fitness activities was to wait to reach 60 to join the local 60+ bowling team. Luckily, we rekindled our love of sport and fitness and never fell victim to the "you're getting old, just accept it" mindset. And we're welcoming you to do the same because strength training and exercise stand to improve your quality of life greatly.
We probably don't need to refer to a study to provide evidence of this one. It goes without saying that exercise, especially strength training, will promote better heart health, improve your natural energy levels, increase your flexibility, and make you stronger. You will be bending and crouching as required with minimal effort; you will be more than capable of picking up boxes or items of furniture that are heavier than five pounds, and you'll be able to keep up with your energetic grandkids (mentally and physically). Doesn't that sound like the quality of life you're after? Then to add to it, the cherry on the top, so to speak, you'll be digesting your food better, sleeping better, and looking physically better too. This is true quality of life in every sense of the phrase!
Find Your Reason and Go for It!
If you're even vaguely like the rest of us older folk, you may have found yourself approaching the idea of getting fit and healthy many times but soon revert to old habits. As the famous quote says, old habits tend to die hard, and that's true when it comes to getting back into fitness. It's hard, you feel sluggish, and it seems to take so long to see results that you become demotivated and hopeless. You may find yourself saying, "I’ll start fitness and strength training next week," or "I don't have time to work out daily," or "I'm too old to start exercising now." All of these are just excuses provided to you - by you - to give up on yourself. This is why having a reason is imperative. When you have a reason for doing something, it becomes easier to stick to it. For people to be motivated, there has to be some sort of goal or reward in the end, and you can set those for yourself when you decide what your reason is. We wrote an entire article on motivation and you can find it here.
You have to do it for yourself.
If you really give it a lot of thought, you will realize that you cannot change for someone else. You can't have the mindset of "I will start strength training because my husband wants me to," or "I will start exercising because I have an hour free on Tuesdays." Instead, you need to have reasons for wanting to exercise and do strength training. You have to work on finding a reason or a "why" to get excited about strength training. You want to reach your goals and push onto even higher and more rewarding goals. You don't just want to be able to pick up and cuddle your two-year-old granddaughter – you also want to be able to keep up with her. Having a powerful set of whys is the most essential step in changing.
We've included a few of our why's/reasons to help inspire you to make your own list.
To become stronger to avoid injuries.
To keep up with the energetic grandkids
To look and feel better (confidence and self-esteem).
To slow down the effects of aging.
To get the most out of this next phase of life.
To keep illnesses at bay.
Now that you have a decent overview of the illnesses and injuries that may tackle you in your 50's and the importance of staying strong after 50, it's time to act on it.
More great info found in the book LIFE AFTER 50, STRENGTH TRAINING.