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How to stay fit as an aging athlete (the goal for active seniors)

September 12th, 2022 | 8 min. read

How to stay fit as an aging athlete (the goal for active seniors)

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Being fit is essential in all stages of life. As you age, it becomes even more important to stay active as a means to enjoy the social, mental, and physical benefits that sports and exercise offer.

 

Part of getting older means you are dealing with the physiological realities of your body slowing down. This means that you have to be even more conscientious about getting in a range of movements.

 

Giving up your favorite activities one by one and settling for a more sedentary existence is easy to do. We all know people who have made this choice.

 

But, you do not have to live this way. You can still be an athlete or fitness enthusiast at any age.

 

Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that offers fitness facilities and programs for athletes of all ages. It is also a community hub for social events and dining.

 

In this article, we will look at what steps senior athletes take to stay fit. You will learn what specific challenges senior athletes face and explore what can be done to keep you strong and committed while dealing with your aging body.

 

 

What happens to aging bodies 

The effects of aging are incremental over time. But the older you become, the more noticeable they are. Several changes occur:

 

  • Hearts work harder to pump blood through stiffening vessels and arteries, increasing the chance of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Bones lose density and weaken, making you more prone to broken and fractured bones. 
  • Muscle strength decreases which affect coordination, balance, and stability.
  • Brains age leading to increased forgetfulness and cognitive function.
  • Eyesight weakens, which makes focusing on close-up objects more difficult. Some people are more sensitive to glare and have trouble adapting to different light levels.
  • Metabolism slows, making it easier to gain weight.

Why is it important to exercise as an aging athlete?

An aging athlete needs to have a routine of aerobic and anaerobic exercise for both physical and mental health. The benefits of exercise in the senior population are extensive.

  • Increases strength 
  • Improves longevity
  • Reduces depression 
  • Reduces arthritis pain 
  • Reduces risks for diabetes 
  • Improves body composition 
  • Reduces the chance of falling
  • Reduces risk for coronary artery disease 

 

 

What challenges do seniors bring to training?

When you are a senior athlete, you need to adjust your expectations. 

 

Recovery takes longer, mobility and flexibility are harder to come by, and muscle mass decreases. Without continuous core and strength training, the body will get hurt. Rest days become an important part of the equation more than ever. 

 

When you age, there is less wiggle room for eating poorly or getting inadequate sleep. Proper nutrition with a balanced amount of carbs, protein, fruit, vegetables, and fatty acids is crucial to optimum performance while training.

 

Perhaps the biggest challenge that senior athletes face is to accept that as you grow older, you might not be able to do the things you did when you were younger. This can be discouraging, but it is not a reason to stop being active altogether.

 

What assets do seniors bring to training?

When people think of senior athletes, it is often with the image of their declining abilities in mind. But elders bring many assets to sports and workouts.

 

Seniors have more experience than most other people. They know the workout equipment and recognize the importance of a well-planned training routine with a proper warm-up, stretching, and post-training recovery program.

 

They also understand the ebb and flow of maintaining strength and cardio gains and how the body adapts over time.

 

 

What steps can older adults take to hinder physical decline?

Exercising for life is the most critical step aging adults can take to maintain health and vigor and slow down physical decline. This approach emphasizes functional mobility, exercise, injury prevention, and nutrition

 

  • Eat a proper diet. Good nutrition is the best remedy for keeping the body injury free, reducing the aches and pains due to inflammation and arthritis, and reducing the lactic acid in the muscles. 
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Avoid or minimize harmful habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption. 
  • Support mental health — get enough laughter and music in your day-to-day and have a healthy social life. 
  • Create workout plans that are sustainable and can be adapted. This can mean shortening the time and intensity of the workout. But if that is necessary to help you exercise regularly, then it is worth it. Because, something is better than nothing.
  • Sleep restfully by creating good bedtime routines — darkening the room, turning off devices, cooling the temperature, etc. Take naps daily for a midday recharge.
  • Build in rest days. Recovery is as important as active days to minimize injury or strains.
  • Vary your movements. Your body needs a diverse collection of mobilizing, cardio, and resistance exercises.

What psychological techniques can elder athletes use to have success?

The mental aspect of the workout is different in the aging athlete. Perseverance is the name of the game. You can no longer talk yourself out of a workout because you know that consistency is key.

 

Elder athletes can use techniques such as “mind over matter,” positive visualization, focusing on breathing, and slowing down the heart rate to get the best results.

 

Accepting growing limitations is an important aspect of getting older as an athlete. But staying committed to exploring new ways to be active helps you find methods that make staying fit not only possible but also enjoyable.

 

 

How can senior athletes optimize their recovery?

Recovery between workout sessions is one of the primary aspects of staying active for the long haul. 

 

The process of recovering assists your body to clean out metabolic waste and speed up the recovery of your muscles, joints, tendons, bones, and nervous system.

 

As you age, pushing through the pain is no longer an option. If you don’t get adequate rest, your exercise gains will slow and even stagnate or go backward. Overexerting can even have weeks or months-long consequences.

 

There are multiple ways to recover:

 

  • Have days when you do not exercise at all or do only very moderate exercise such as a gentle walk or bike ride.
  • Take naps or lie down after exercising — daily if possible.
  • Diversify your activities. Repetitive movements are more likely to cause strains. If your favorite activity is running, add strength training, swimming, and mobilizing work so your knees do not take a hit. 
  • Many athletes find by optimizing hydration, eating carbs pre-workout, and protein post-workout, their recovery is greatly improved.

 

It is common to spend fewer days at the gym. Athletes in their forties that exercised five times per week often change it to three as they enter their sixties and seventies. 

 

Another example is going from playing tennis three times per week to tennis once a week and a hike and yoga class on the other days.

 

There are many ways to adjust exercise routines that allow older people to maintain good levels of fitness for the long term. 

 

Final thoughts on staying fit as an aging athlete

Becoming a senior isn’t a time to stop being active. But it is a time to adjust workout plans and strategize for overall health.

 

Seniors need to pay closer attention to optimizing nutrition, staying hydrated, resting and recovering, and creating programming according to capacity and goals.

 

In this article, you learned some practical tips for how to stay active and what is the mindset of senior athletes. We hope you can apply this information to your plans to help you live a healthy life.

 

The Paseo Club has been training seniors in fitness for almost twenty years. We offer a range of programs that seniors can enjoy, including tennis and pickleball, cycle, liquid cardio (water aerobics), Zumba, Pilates, and more.

 

Check out the fitness calendar to see the schedule and sign up for your favorite classes. 

 

If you are looking for a low-impact cardio workout, read about the benefits of liquid cardio class that is offered six days per week.

 

Curious about the relationship between being fit and your cognitive function

 

Blue zones are areas in the world where the locals enjoy greater longevity. Did you know that social clubs, like Paseo Club, help to create blue zones? Read how blue zones can add quality and quantity to your life

 

If you haven’t seen the club in person, stop by for a Paseo Club tour. You can sign up for one any day of the week.