“Sixty is the new 40,” say many early baby boomers celebrating their 60th birthday in the past few years.
This generation of 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964, determined to ward off aging, has focused more on exercise and wellness than did their parents. They were at the forefront of the aerobics and fitness movement that began in the 1970s and are now flocking to health clubs in even greater numbers.
But, as a result, increasing numbers are suffering from “Boomeritis” — the phenomenon of boomers becoming injured while exercising and playing sports at a level often too intense for their aging bodies.
It’s not just about soreness or stiffness. As boomers refuse to let injuries get in the way of their exercise routines, they’re undergoing complex knee and hip replacements and surgical repairs to the shoulder, ankle and elbow. Orthopedic surgeons say they are performing such surgeries more often on patients in their 40s, 50s and beond than in the past.
Physical therapists are also treating more boomer patients than ever, not only for rehab after injuries and surgeries, but also for customized fitness training geared to their musculoskeletal limitations.
staying healthy and avoiding injuries
If you’re a boomer, regular exercise is key to preventing or improving chronic conditions that come with increasing age. But you may need to make some modifications to avoid injuries.
Here are some tips for staying healthy and avoiding injury — at any age.
Moderate cardiovascular exercise will improve the quality of your life, but be sure to get screened by a physician first.
Exercise at a pace appropriate for your age and past activity level. Adjust your activities and know that you have limitations: You may only be able to get your heart rate up so high, you may have joints that are not as flexible, or you may have arthritis.
Seek the advice of physical therapists to work on your flexibility, strength, endurance and posture. You need to know what posture to have while sitting at a computer, as well as how to set your computer station ergonomically to reduce the risk of neck, shoulder and hand injuries.
Perform gradual strengthening exercises. Begin with light weights and gradually increase the resistance, don’t be afraid of heavy weights but progress slowly.
Eat well-balanced meals with protein at each meal, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Drink water daily.
A loss of mobility following injury, hospitalization, or even sustained sitting positions at work can speed the deterioration of muscles, joints and bone. A physical therapist can help you regain mobility and improve quality of movement.
Exercise mentally, not just physically, by doing crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, Scrabble and other mind games.