Aging Is a Real Pain in the Neck. . .
And the Back. And the Knees. But with stretching and exercise to relieve the pain, it doesn’t have to be.
A variation on the weekend warrior syndrome is the man who decides to get back in shape and initially pushes himself too hard, leading to muscle soreness or inflammation. The risk weekend warriors face, Schafer says, is that the soreness or injury will lead them to give up on exercise altogether.
Proper conditioning can be thought of as a three-legged stool, Siegrist says. The first leg is flexibility, the second is cardio endurance, and the third is strength. Weightlifters, runners, and yoga fiends take note: “As you get older,” Siegrist says, “you’ll need to give equal time to all three.”
How flexibility gives you an edge over aches and pains
Stretching is vital to preventing aches and pains because it improves the pliability of the ligaments that support the joint, Siegrist tells WebMD. But keeping limber is the area of conditioning that men are most likely to neglect. To get the attention of her male patients, Siegrist informs them that keeping flexible is important in any sport that requires peak physical performance. “I tell my golfers that the other guys in your foursome probably aren’t stretching. So if you do, it will give you the edge. I joke that it will take 10 strokes off your game.”
Siegrist is a big fan of yoga, but if you can’t bear to do that, then you can stretch at your desk or while making coffee or watching TV. It doesn’t have to be just before or after workouts, she says. “Every little bit counts.”
Why you need cardio training to help lighten the load
It’s easy to blame age for your aching joints. But the true cause may be that extra 30 pounds you’ve loaded onto them, also known as your “spare tire.” Cardiovascular training — along with a healthy diet — is the best way to take care of that problem. And of course it’s vital for preventing heart disease and stroke. Guidelines vary, but Siegrist suggests “challenging your body” (something more intense than a casual stroll) for 30 to 60 minutes each day.
If you are looking for relief of back pain, then you should choose cardio training that conditions your trunk muscles, Hilibrand says. That means exercises performed in a standing position, such as running or jogging. If you have disk problems that make high-impact exercise painful, you may want to consider lower-impact alternatives such as stair machines, elliptical trainers, or cross-country ski trainers.
Why strength training helps relieve aching joints
Why will strength training help ease joint pain? Because strengthening the muscles that cross your joints helps them act more effectively as stabilizers, Siegrist says.
Strengthening the trunk muscles is especially important for relief of back pain, Hilibrand says. “The spine supports the upper body weight on the pelvis,” he says. “The only thing that shares that load is the trunk muscles, so the stronger they are, the less weight that will be carried on the spine.”