Health Self Help

Getting Older?

I was asked recently to provide some guidelines for “older” people regarding working out and fitness. 

Digestion

AS we get older, our bodies’ ability to digest food slowly declines.  Stomach acid becomes weaker and the ability to produce digestive enzymes (pancreas) decreases.  In Ayurvedic tradition (which is the traditional medicine of India) people over 40 should considering eating vegetables cooked and definitely over age 50.  That makes sense because cooking starts the process of breaking down foods making the nutrients more easily absorbed by the body.

As a side thought, many people start taking ant-acids when they get older. I can’t think of worse thing to do. Many people are suffering from LOW stomach acid which causing indigestion, not high stomach acid. A simple test could be to add a little wine when eating (wine is acidic) or some apple cider vinegar and see if that helps. The French and a lot of Europeans drink wine with their meals. They just might be on to something. Of course, I’m not a doctor so consult with them if you’re being prescribed an antacid.

Hydration

Another big issue is hydration.  As we get older the mechanism to signal thirst does not work as well.  Many times feeling hungry is really the body’s cry for water.  Try drinking a glass of water first and see if the hunger goes away.

The importance of drinking enough water cannot be understated. Adequate hydration takes stress off the kidneys, helps prevent kidney stones and so much more.  We are 55% to 65% water. 

While I’m at it, drinking orange juice while you are cycling is a bad idea.  OJ will make you dehydrated.  I did that once.  Never again.

Just.  Drink. WATER.  Not sparkling water, not Gator-aid or any other aid, not coffee, not black tea, not fruit juice.  WATER.  Coffee and black tea rob the body of water (they are diuretics).  Drinking a glass of water is a great way to help your body start out the day.  After sleeping all night you are probably dehydrated.

Stretching

This one is big for me.  There are two ways to exercise a muscle, one is to make it shorter and the other is to make it longer.  Stretching makes the muscle longer.

I hear so much bad information about how and when to stretch.  Coming from a Licensed Massage Therapist (me) here is the info you need to know.

  1. NEVER stretch when your muscles are cold.  Bad idea, you will hurt yourself.  I know many think you need to stretch before riding or running.  What SHOULD happen is ride a little bit, enough to warm the muscles up and then get off the bike and stretch.  I stretch AFTER riding when the muscles are all nice and warm.
  2. Since the muscles should be warmed up first before stretching, you can also take a hot shower.  This is my favorite and I stretch every day in the shower.  At my age I can still do splits and places my hands flat on the floor when bending down.  Exercise first, then stretch.  Sitting in a hot tub will also work.
  3. Bottom line is you can warm up the muscles externally by heat (hot tub or shower) or internally (exercise/movement) as muscles generate heat.  Heat first, then stretch.

Loss of range of motion is a big issue as we get older.  Being flexible will help with balance and coordination as we get older and will help prevent falls.  Stretching also helps keeps muscles strong.

Get into the habit of doing a little stretching every day.  Your body will love you for it.


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