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Five Ways To Maintain Fitness And Good Eating Habits As You Age

Staying active is essential as you age, but achy joints or injuries can prevent you from the activities you love. Consider some of the ideas below to maintain your fitness for years to come:

Jason Machowsky, RD, CSSD, RCEP, CSCS, is a Board Certified Sports Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist at HSS Paramus Rehabilitation.

Jason Machowsky, RD, CSSD, RCEP, CSCS, is a Board Certified Sports Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist at HSS Paramus Rehabilitation.

Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

Manage Pain Proactively

While muscular soreness is okay, joint pain is a red flag. Modify an activity to make it pain-free – a subtle adjustment can go a long way, like not letting your knee collapse in or bend too far forward when squatting. If you have chronic pain, exercise should not significantly increase that pain.

Stay Mobile and Strong

Sports and daily activities require you to move with control. A tennis serve not only requires shoulder, spine and hip motion, but also the ability to control forces created by the racket as you swing to avoid putting too much pressure on your neck, shoulder or back.

Strength and control in the right muscles is doubly important for those with osteoarthritis – it can help stabilize a joint and reduce discomfort when cartilage or ligamentous control is lacking.

Maintain Lean Mass

Maintaining lean mass, particularly muscle and bone, can be achieved through regular load bearing activities, such as resistance training, and good nutrition.

• Eat adequate calories to maintain a healthy body weight.

• Eat moderate amounts of protein (12-25 grams) about every three to four hours to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

• Choose calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, sardines, tofu (set with calcium), figs, certain dark leafy greens, almonds, broccoli, white beans and oranges. Fortified foods are fine too.

Anti-Inflammatory Eating

Recovery takes longer as you age, so adequate rest and nutrition are essential to minimize inflammation.

• Eat vegetables and fruits with at least two meals or snacks a day.

• Eat moderate portions of healthy fats such as fatty fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, flax or olive oil.

• Incorporate spices that naturally contain anti-inflammatory compounds such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon and cocoa.

• Stay hydrated by drinking water or other low-calorie fluids throughout the day.

• Minimize pro-inflammatory foods like refined sugars, excessive alcohol, fried foods and processed meats (i.e. bacon, deli meat, etc.).

Get Your Physicals

Many physiological functions change as we age, including slower recovery and reduced ability to digest and absorb certain nutrients. Furthermore, medications may have interactions that affect our exercise or nutrition capabilities. It is important to see your primary care physician on a regular basis to make sure everything is functioning as well as possible. Just like a car needs routine maintenance to avoid breakdown, so do you!

At the HSS Paramus Outpatient Center, my colleagues and I provide a full range of physical and occupational therapy to address injuries and pain in the hand, wrist and elbow, low back and neck, sports and general orthopedic injuries. As a performance specialist, I design personalized performance training programs including nutritional guidance. In Paramus, we provide expert treatment without a doctor’s prescription through direct access.