Tips for aging athletes to stay in shape

By JEFF STRICKLER Minneapolis Star Tribune Published:

(SHNS) -- Ways for aging athletes to keep the spring in their step:

-- Keep things in balance. Improper balance can lead to pain in knees, hips and backs. She recommends strengthening the body's core muscles -- basically, the stomach and lower-back muscles -- as well as doing balancing exercises, which can start with something as simple as standing on one foot.

-- Focus on form. Runners often wax poetic about "zoning out" as they pad along their familiar routes, but don't let inattention destroy your bliss. If you've developed bad habits, fixing them requires focus.

-- Remember the basics. The importance of keeping hydrated increases with age.

"Ligaments and tendons need the fluid," said Mark Richards, vice president of program development for the Edina, Minn.-based Welcyon Fitness After 50 clubs. The experts also urge paying heightened attention to nutrition and sleep patterns.

-- Follow the rules. We've all heard the guidelines about starting gradually so our muscles can warm up and then allowing for a cool-down period at the end of an exercise session. Aging bodies need those allowances more than ever. Time is often the villain in this scenario, Hankel said. "If we only have 45 minutes (to work out), there's an urge to go fast right away to make the most of the time. Be patient."

-- Stretch it out. Tight muscles and tendons can pull the body out of alignment. "As we get older, the harder it is on the body if we don't stretch," Bremer said.

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