Sun, Dec 24, 2006 - Page 9 News List

To avoid `boomeritus,' exercise, exercise, exercise

By Jane Brody  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

An apology to all baby boomers and beyond -- I'm afraid that in our efforts to get everyone to become physically active, we've sold you a bill of goods.

A 30-minute walk on most days is just not enough. There is much more to becoming -- and staying -- physically fit as you age than engaging in regular aerobic activity. (Of course, the same applies to those younger than 60.)

In addition to activities like walking, jogging, cycling and swimming that promote endurance, cardiovascular health and weight control, there is a dire need for exercises that improve posture and increase strength, flexibility and balance. These exercises can greatly reduce the risk of injuries from sports and endurance activities, the demands of daily life, falls and other accidents.

Musculoskeletal injuries are now the number one reason for seeking medical care in the US. And falls, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month, have become the leading cause of injury deaths for men and women 65 and older.

pro-active

Unless you do something to slow the deterioration in muscle, bone strength and agility that naturally accompanies aging, you will become a prime candidate for what Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, calls "boomeritis."

"By their 40th birthday, people often have vulnerabilities -- weak links -- and as the first generation that is trying to stay active in droves, baby boomers are pushing their frames to the breakpoint," DiNubile said in introducing a press event in New York last month sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the National Athletic Trainers' Association.

"Baby boomers are falling apart -- developing tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis and `fix-me-itis,' the idea that modern medicine can fix anything. It's much better to prevent things than to have to try to fix them," he said.

DiNubile pointed out that evolution had not kept up with the doubling of the human life span in the last 100 years. To counter the inevitable declines with age, we have to provide our bodies with an extended warranty.

In their recently published book, Age-Defying Fitness, two prominent physical therapists, Marilyn Moffat of New York University and Carole Lewis of Washington, provide the ingredients to help you make the most of your body for the rest of your life -- a quick quiz and a five-part test to assess the status of your posture, strength, balance, flexibility and endurance, followed by five chapters with step-by-step instructions on how to safely improve the areas in which you are lacking.

The therapists describe what happens to these "five domains of fitness" as you age. Posture begins changing as early as the teenage years, the result of activities like prolonged sitting, carrying a heavy purse or briefcase, or working at a computer.

Strength declines as muscle fibers decrease in size and number and as the supply of nerve stimulation and energy diminishes. Balance deteriorates as muscles tighten and weaken and joints lose their full range of motion.

Flexibility declines because connective tissue throughout the body becomes less elastic. And endurance falls off because of reduced flexibility, weakened muscles, and stiffer lungs and blood vessels.

test

Still not convinced you need to work on your fitness? See how you do on the therapists' quiz:

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