It’s important to stay fit and active, but if you’re not careful, you might actually cause yourself more pain in the future. Learn how to stay pain free.
Healthy aging is a priority many of us share, especially as time goes by. It’s well known that if you want to live a long, healthy life and reduce your risk of chronic disease it’s vitally important to exercise consistently as part of your daily life. In my work as a fitness trainer, I consistently notice two kinds of exercise participants; those who are excited to exercise and push themselves for the sheer enjoyment of it, and those who are exercising because they know they need to, even if they don’t want to. For virtually every marker of success the former group enjoys better results than the latter, except one: rates of injury. The most passionate fitness enthusiasts will push themselves harder and see faster results, but they will also accumulate more wear and tear along the way. While consistent exercise, improved results, and more overall enjoyment are all extremely important to success and healthy aging, an important measure of wellbeing as we age is also quality of life.
Quality of life can be defined as how easily and independently you can pursue things you enjoy and go about your daily life as you grow older. Without a doubt, consistent exercise can help you maintain your strength, endurance, and functional movement as you age so you can remain independent and keep doing the things you love. However, pushing limits and accumulating injuries during your athletic career can put a serious damper on it as well.
In my experience, individuals who played competitive sports in their youth have accumulated far more injuries than those who did not. They tend to be more athletic, competitive, and have fun exercising, but I’ve also seen many former athletes grow frustrated with nagging pain or limitations due to injury and give up, even at a relatively young age. It’s hard to stay passionate about something when it causes pain in your knees, back, or shoulders and you can no longer excel at it as a result.
I’ve also seen many individuals come to fitness later in life to improve the way they look, feel, or perform, and wind up excelling. They nearly always have healthier joints and tend to be more cautious than the former group since they lack the experience of pushing themselves in such a competitive environment. There is a good chance that someone who was bit by the fitness bug in their late 20s or 30s will enjoy all of the same health benefits of someone who started in their teens, and will also end up with much more resilient joints and less pain as they age. Not only is there 10–20 years less accumulated wear and tear, but I can guarantee you any 35 year old is more cautious and less competitive than they were at 16.
While the optimal recipe for a long, healthy life with as much function and independence as possible is an excellent diet and life long fitness, it’s important not to neglect non-vital organs such as your joints and ligaments when improving vital ones such as your heart and lungs. Injury prevention and rehabilitation should be a priority at any age (especially younger ages in my opinion), and it’s never too late to start exercising and enjoy the benefits. Quality of life can be measured by pain-free movement, so remember to move and stay pain free!
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