There is no age limit to participating in sports or exercise. We all admire seniors when we see them working out at the gym, playing doubles on the tennis court or running at the Beach to Beacon 10K road race, which was held last Saturday.

In fact, the Maine Sunday Telegram featured a picture of Della Hitchcox, age 80, running the Beach to Beacon four months after back surgery.

This past week I met Gene Waters, 74, who has run in all 13 Beach to Beacon races. This is after his doctor told him he would not be able to run again after his hip replacement.

One of my former patients was shoveling the snow off his roof and the neighbors called the South Portland Fire Department. He was surprised by all the fuss he caused because he did not think of himself as his true age of 103.

Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige is credited with saying, “How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?”

I love this quote because no one should set limits on you. We just have to be smarter.

As we age, we may not be able to compete at the same level as the high school or college students compete, but we still can compete. We need to listen to our bodies and understand how it is reacting to our preparation and training.

Many sports have age adjusted levels or different handicaps so any one can have fun and play. The Maine Golf Association has senior division tournaments throughout the season.

There are hockey leagues that do not allow checking, which is intended to reduce the chance of injury. The USTA has different levels of tennis so you can avoid the Brian Powells and Brian Mavors and play against someone of your own abilities.

The Maine Senior Olympics will be held in August and September. This is an excellent opportunity to have fun and play against people in your age group.

Here are a few tips to get started. First, check with your health care provider. Let him or her give you guidance on what to expect from your body.

Consider hiring a personal trainer or coach. There are a number of excellent trainers in the area. I have referred patients to MaryAnn Molloy, owner of Healthy Body, Fit Mind, located at Basics Fitness Center in South Portland. She specializes in baby boomers and seniors.

If you use a trainer, make sure he or she understands your goals and physical limitations. You may even want them to speak with your health care provider.

A common condition associated with older athletes is “boomer-itis.”

The first time I heard this term used was when former President George W. Bush went for a physical and complained of tenderness in his knees from running.

As we age, we are more susceptible to aches and pains associated with inflammation of the tendons or aggravation of arthritic joints. This should not stop you from exercising but you need to be more careful.

Warm up and cool down before and after workouts. Also I want you to do some gentle stretching before you start and a more aggressive stretching program after you finish.

Always be aware of your hydration levels. As we age, our nutrition needs change. Eat high-quality foods. Try to avoid processed foods whenever possible. It may be necessary to supplement your diet with calcium and a multiple vitamin.

Remember to start slow and have lots of fun.

 

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald.