Running After 50: Whether You're Starting Or Continuing  

Many of the clients at our Ottawa physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics have questions about staying active as they get older. When it comes to running at any age, running's benefits have to be balanced against the reality that it does tend to be taxing on joints and muscles.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to stop – and even if you’ve never run before, it’s still feasible to start.

The key is to be realistic via accurate knowledge. First, it’s true, as we all know, that physical functions diminish as we age.

  • Cardiovascular endurance is diminished;
  • Muscles shrink – the individual fibres decrease both in number and size;
  • Balance, coordination and strength are impaired;
  • You are more prone to injuries caused by overuse, including strains of the knee, and pulled muscles.

However, staying inactive can actually contribute to the above. That’s the best reason for continuing, and for getting active at any age. Just remember:

  • Listen to your body;
  • When you need to take a break, do it.

If you haven't run before...

Recovery from injury will take longer as you get older – so the goal is to avoid it. Our Ottawa physiotherapists and other sports medicine specialists can help you set goals that are realistic for your age and lifestyle. If you are truly starting from scratch, and it's been years since you've been physically active on a regular basis, you should think about a full physical before you begin.

As you age, you'll lose:

  • Aerobic capacity;
  • Muscle strength;
  • Capacity for quick healing.

Above all, be realistic. You won't pick it up the way you would have in your 20s and 30s. Learn to listen to your body, and pay attention to unusual pain and discomfort. Take whatever down time you need.

Consider your starting fitness level. Would it be more appropriate to start with brisk walking, moving up to running as your endurance increases? You'll be using the same muscles and structures, just at a gentler pace.

  • You can start as slowly as you need to, alternating 30 seconds of running with the 2 minutes of walking for about 20 minutes total to begin with;
  • Increase duration of running weekly, but by no more than 10%.

The importance of good footwear can't be over-emphasized. Get a professional to fit you, and take your biomechanics in mind. Your shoe needs to fit as you run, from heel to toe, and allow you to move comfortably.

Add-on fitness

Starting from nothing or continuing, there are other activities and training you can use to optimize your results.

  • Adding strength training to your routine is a no-brainer. It can help you combat the natural attrition of muscle fibres that occurs as we age, as well as add to your capacity to run longer and more safely.
  • Swimming is a good complementary activity if you're looking to build up cardio capacity.
  • Think about strength training for one day a week, and flexibility training for another two days a week.

Be sure to eat properly. One of our Ottawa Registered Sports Dietitians can advise you on the best diet for your needs.

If you have any concerns or need advice about exercise or activity, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Ottawa physiotherapy, chiropractic and sports medicine clinics today for a consultation.




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