What is the purpose of fitness? Why do you exercise? What do you hope to accomplish?
Are you doing it to prepare for a sport? We know for sure that exercise and good fitness are important for whatever sport that you might happen to be playing, regardless of your age.
Sports-specific programs are important not only to help you be better at your sport but also to prevent injuries. How does fitness prevent injuries, you might ask.
Lots of injuries happen late in the game. Fourth quarter. Last ski run. Those kinds of things. Fatigue is definitely a factor. As you get tired, your technique deteriorates and your focus wanes.
Your body’s ability to a change in direction (think about planting your foot to cut to your left) or to react to outside forces (think about getting bumped while you’re running) lessen with fatigue.
Performance is the goal for a lot of people. I took up CrossFit in 2008 because I could see that the emphasis on core strength would help me on the bicycle, particularly the mountain bike.
I can remember when Pete Rose broke down barriers in the 70s by lifting weights. Back then, baseball players avoided strength training fearing that they couldn’t perform well with big muscles. We now know how wrong that was.
Now we know that strength training, stretching, and sport-specific training are all essential to successful sports performance — along with eating right, getting adequate sleep, and listening to your body — regardless of the sport.
Weight management is another great reason to seek better fitness levels. Dieting without exercising is futile. You just can’t get the results that you want.
Maybe you exercise to look better. That’s OK. Whatever drives you. I’ve said often that the best exercise program that you can do is the one that you will do. Same here. It doesn’t matter as much why you exercise as it does that you do exercise.
Kids need to exercise so that they become active adults. That’s a proven fact. And it’s also a fact that if their parents will exercise with them, the kids are even more likely to participate and to continue an active lifestyle into adulthood.
You might exercise for the way it makes you feel. Although I have never ran far enough or hard enough to achieve a “runner’s high,” I do know that regular exercise keeps me feeling better.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that it feels good on some of the long hills on my bicycle or that the strength training that I do is always fun. But I can tell you that as soon as it is over, it feels great. Exercise causes the release of endorphins in your system that will leave you almost euphoric.
Exercise is a key ingredient to living longer or, at the very least, living well in your later years. Again, study after study has indicated that.
I know people my age that feel like they’ve reached the age when it is time to slow down; that it is the natural progression of aging. That is most certainly a slippery slope. If you let it, age becomes an excuse for getting lazy.
Stay active, stay strong, and don’t let birthdays dictate how you feel or what you do. You are neither too young nor too old to pursue fitness. And let me repeat what I already said: It doesn’t matter nearly as much what you do as it does that you do it.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Blount Memorial Hospital’s Total Rehabilitation. Write to Joe at email@example.com.