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Athletes Need Not Let Age Dog Them

  • 10/17/2011 4:40:00 PM
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Travis Irby, M.A, M.Ed

The concept of dog years lets us quantify how man’s best friend ages. The popular myth is that a dog ages every seven years for one human year. While that is not necessarily the most scientific explanation for the canine aging process, the idea of aging many years in one is something that many people can relate to. As people get older, they tend to feel older, and the feeling of aging seems to increase exponentially with time. 

These changes can even be more pronounced for the aging athlete. Isn’t it reasonable? After all, a life of regular physical activity should in theory wear one down, once time takes away the youth and vigor that made a regularly active life possible.  However, in this day and age, many athletes continue to train and exercise well past their 40s. In fact, exercising slows down the aging process, although that does not mean that time does not take a toll on the physically active. Athlete or not, aging tends to decrease muscle size, bone stability, and tendon/ligament stability. These are things the aging athlete needs to take into consideration when training, as overuse is very common among those aged 40-60 years. 

The aging athlete is most often considered to be someone aged 40s or older who continues to participate in a regular exercise program or competitive sports. The aging athlete wants to avoid injuries that will affect training or ability to participate in competition. These injuries can be a sudden injury like a muscle tear or a degenerative condition like tendinitis. 

Mixing up routines and sports is one way to keep injuries at bay. These athletes should try different workout routines or sports to rest their body parts. Flexibility is another key element to injury prevention. Maintaining proper flexibility can reduce muscle tears and overuse injuries. Strength training is another way for an athlete to stay in tip top shape. By increasing their strength, aging athletes can absorb more punishment when training. Aerobic conditioning is one of the most important ways for the aging athlete to avoid injury by reducing many cardiovascular risks.

Unlike man’s best friend, the aging athlete does not need to let Father Time take away many years for every one that goes by on the calendar. Aging athletes need to realize that their bodies do not fail simply due to age, and that regular exercise can actually keep the aging process at bay. These athletes need to realize that while aging can change the body, with proper maintenance and prevention, aging can work in the opposite way of dog years. The aging athlete can add years for every year by being active and healthy.


Further Reading: 

  1. O’Neill, D. F. (2009). Aging gracefully and actively. Athletic Therapy Today, 14(6), 17-19.

  2. Roters, J., Logan, A. J., Meisner, B. A., & Baker, J. (2010). A preliminary study of perceptions of aging in athletes and non-athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(1), 67-70.

  3. Phoenix, C., & Sparkes, A. C. (2008). Athletic bodies and aging in context: The narrative construction of experienced and anticipated selves in time. Journal of Aging Studies, 22(3), 211-221.



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