You know that fitness and exercise are important elements of healthy living, but make sure you are not making these midlife fitness mistakes.
I developed a regular fitness habit when my daughter turned one. So, for the past 17 years, I’ve kept a pretty steady schedule at the gym. When I’m there I operate with one primary goal…make the most of my time to get all the benefit I can. At the gym, this girl don’t play!
I’m all for putting 100% into every workout; however, in the last few years I’ve noticed that my body experiences a few more twinges and pains than it did when I started almost two decades ago.
Actually, I have what you might call a preventative personality. Even when I was a teenager I would cover my face in the sun even though the rest of my friends were sun bathing in baby oil. I knew this was the only face I was going to get, so I wasn’t going to fry it and suffer the consequences for the rest of my life.
This same mindset also bleeds over into my fitness philosophy. I know that these minor twinges are nothing compared to the pain I could experience with major knee, back or shoulder problems. Consequently, I exercise with the same preventative philosophy.
I’ve had to face the fact that this 48 year-old body needs a little more TLC than my early thirties body did, although I have to give it kudos for how well it has held up. That doesn’t mean I don’t still give 100%, it just means that I make sure to use good form, as well as, make small modifications as I age.
Group classes are my favored cardio option. I love the accountability and energy that comes from exercising in a group. However, about 2 years ago I made a conscious decision to modify some moves to make them a little more low impact. Low impact exercise basically reduces jumping motions to lessen the impact on the joints, namely the knee joint.
Just because you can perform at a full-out, high impact level doesn’t mean you should. Knee pain and injuries are often cumulative, so even if you don’t feel it today you could end up with some serious problems a year down the road.
For me, I try to keep my feet as close to the ground as possible to avoid the jarring motion of high jumps or leaps. To compensate for this lowered leg motion, I make sure to fully extend my arms and upper body. Raising your arms above heart level causes a corresponding increase in heart rate. In essence, the heart must pump harder to circulate blood to your extremities against gravity.
Consider your sneakers as your shock absorbers. You need to keep your joints protected at all times. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends that athletic shoes be changed out after 45 to 60 hours of activity. For a regular exerciser, this would translate to changing out your shoes every 6 months.
The outside appearance of your shoes has no bearing on their ability to protect your feet, ankles and knees from the stress of impact. I have given away a lot of shoes that looks perfectly good on the outside. Consider cycling your used athletic shoes to normal daily wear and buying newer ones on a regular schedule for exercise.
“The aging process also bestows upon us the gift of reduced flexibility. Our muscles are no longer able to fully lengthen and thus, prevent our joints from moving through their full range of motion.” (Fitknit Chick) So, it’s extremely important to enter and exit your exercise routine the right way. Cold muscles are more prone to tear and strain.
Of course it’s hard to prioritize stretching and warm-ups when you are already squeezing exercise into a frenzied schedule. In this case, it helps to understand just how valuable proper stretching is for maintaining your current lifestyle.
Stretching is not just a sideline activity. It really is a “use it or lose it” scenario. You don’t always realize how much you take for granted until you can no longer bend over to tie your shoes.
Improper alignment can spell big trouble when it comes to your ligaments and joints. Basically, lifting weights causes small tears to form in the muscle. These tears then form scar tissue, which causes the muscle to get bigger. However, if the weight is not lifted properly, these tears can form in the wrong place or cause damage to connective tissues.
Another common misalignment occurs when lunges or squats are performed improperly. The knee should never jut out past the ankle because this causes all of the weight to rest on the knee joint. Instead, the leg should always be at a 90 degree angle (knee directly above ankle). This position distributes the weight through the leg muscles.
If you are new to exercise or strength training, a personal trainer can help set you on the right course for your first few sessions.
You might be thinking…what?! Yes, it’s very possible for a midlife woman to exercise too much in her attempt to outrun the midlife spread. Here’s the thing…exercise causes stress to the body, but that stress is not just physical. Exercise also causes hormonal stress.
Tamara Grand at Fitknit Chick explains what happens:
While chronically high cortisol levels are never desirable (resulting in extreme fatigue, reduced immune response and low blood pressure, among others), they’re even less welcome in a perimenopausal bodywhose production of progesterone is at an all-time low.
Why? The adrenals cannot make cortisol without progesterone. The more cortisol they’re required to make to offset stress, the less progesterone will be available to balance estrogen and testosterone. Without the balancing effects of progesterone, excess estrogen often leads to weight gain, in particular, an increase in the body’s central fat stores. Hello muffin-top.
Source: Fitknit Chick
In the end we come right back around to the whole idea of balance and moderation. I guess I’ll just keep beating the drum in the hope that some of you will want to join my parade.
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