The Medicated Exerciser

The Medicated Exerciser

Before new exercisers join in the Younger Games, we always inquire if they take any medications we should be aware of that might affect their ability to exercise. A large percentage of American adults 50+ take one or more medications for a chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and depression.

Knowing about medications is important so we can ensure, as much as possible, that the type and intensity of the exercises are appropriate for the person, both in terms of ensuring physical safety and avoiding turning what should be an enjoyable and challenging experience into a miserable one. Too often patients don’t ask and providers don’t tell how a particular medication will impact their abilities  and physical response to exercise.


For example, among the medications that can have a significant effect on exercise are those commonly prescribed for the treatment of hypertension and heart disease, including beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics. All of these lower blood pressure through different means, however they all can result in similar problems for exercisers who are not informed about them.

One is that because they lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac output, it is not possible to measure  exercise intensity with devices such as a heart rate monitor. Another is that people taking these medications may be prone to unpleasant bouts of dizziness, especially with rapid changes in head height during rapid changes in head position found in some up/down exercises. Finally, there is a natural drop in blood pressure after exercise that when added to the already low pressure from the medication can result in abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension) and cause the unpleasant sensation you are about to faint (in rare cases, it happens). This can be avoided by a long cool down that allows blood pooled in the exercised muscles, particularly in the lower body, to return to the rest of the body, like the brain.

Of course, many other medications affect a person’s ability to do certain exercises or to exercise at all. Certain antidepressants, pain killers, and tranquilizers can cause poor balance and slow reflexes.

Some of the problems that can arise from medications come as an unwelcome surprise. For instance, some chemo-therapy drugs cause nerve damage in extremities like the feet, so someone trying to do light jumping might suddenly feel nothing, at the other extreme, shooting pains or like their feet are on fire. Recently we had a Younger Games participant who was on Cipro, a widely used antibiotic, for a minor infection. After an energetic bout of exercise, she developed Achilles tendonitis; turns out, a side effect of this antibiotic is to reduce collagen levels in connective tissues.

Most times medications do not preclude exercise. But you always want to discuss with your prescribing provider if he/she is aware of any issues and also do your own investigation. Once you know there could be problems, you will know what exercises you need to completely avoid or modify. Also you will better understand if a certain unusual or unpleasant sensation you experience is normal or pointing to something else.
















The Tiger Trap

The Tiger Trap

Plenty of Boomers are caught in the Tiger Trap caused by an overuse injury from a repetitive motion. In the case of Tiger Woods, the capture has been more dramatic and expensive, but no more painful, restrictive and depressing as it is for average 50+ athletes and exercisers.


Most sports fans are aware that Tiger Woods, age 39, has taken a leave of absence from golf due to an inability to perform because of nagging back problems that first appeared years ago and lead to a succession of surgeries. After each surgery, he’s tried to bounce back, but with each recovery his swing has changed, and gradually and steadily he has lost the power and magic of his early years.

His decline, which resembles a ball bouncing down the stairs, began as a child, when his father had him playing golf, and only golf, at the age of four. Right then a clock started ticking in his body as he developed a right-handed swing that would become legend. He spent tireless hours swinging the club. All along he was also building an imbalance in his hips and back to enable the powerful, spiralling rotation that launched golf balls almost super-human distances with incredible accuracy.

Tiger’s plight is that of many 50+ plus people who discovered a sport they enjoyed and practiced for decades. Now they are a financial bonanza for orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists and chiropractors. Each sport, even the genteel ones like golf, has its predictable overuse injury pattern – tennis (shoulders & elbows), cycling and running (hips & knees), basketball (knees), baseball (shoulders and elbows) and skiing (knees).

The reason overuse injuries are a trap and don’t go away is that years of repeating a motion have literally reshaped the body. Muscle and connective tissue strengthens in the directions they are consistently stressed and weakens in those they are not. The body becomes literally out of balance, hence the pain, and, in some cases, anatomical changes from wear and tear that cannot be fixed.

So what’s a trapped tiger to do? Simple: Do less of what caused the imbalance in the first place. Now is a good time for Tiger to put down his clubs and start working on his skiing with the advice of his girl friend Lindsey Vonn, the great alpine skier.

Likewise for Boomers with their overuse injuries, now is the right time to give the over-used, damaged areas of their bodies a rest and focus on restoring as much balance, strength and range of motion as possible in each joint complex from head to toes. Training itself – being able to do lots of physical movements, whether fast or slow, with grace and confidence – becomes a game.

That’s a game worth playing.










Watered, Oiled and Ready to Go

Watered, Oiled and Ready to Go

With our bodies being 65-70% water, it should come as no surprise that if we aren’t well hydrated prior to exercise there will be consequences for both our comfort and ability to exert in intense activities like the Younger Games.


Here are a few of those consequences to keep in mind. The first two might be familiar to you, but the third may not be:

• Even slight dehydration reduces blood volume, which means the heart must work harder to get adequate oxygen and energy to working muscles. Un-young adults on diuretics for hypertension need to be aware of this because they might already be at the low end of adequate hydration before they walk in the gym.

• There will be decreased blood circulation to the surface of the skin where the sweat follicles reside. Only by sweating can you prevent a problematic increase in core body temperature. We’re not talking about a catastrophic rise as seen in heat exhaustion, rather an increase that just makes it difficult and unpleasant to exercise because you feel like you are sick with a fever because you cannot cool off.

• One very over-looked benefit of plenty of water in your body is that it acts as a lubricant between myfascial tissues that surround every muscle, as well as tendons and ligaments. When you move, adequate fluid enables muscles to slide easily over one another and promotes optimum range of motion. When not well hydrated, these tissues actually stick together and resist movement. This is especially important for 50+ adults with less collagen in their tissues and the accompanying creaks, pops and stiffness.


Drink a glass or two of water over an hour before you come in for a workout. Guzzling it down just after you arrive at the gym may be too late. If you wonder whether you are adequately hydrated, check the color of your urine using a chart like this one from the Cleveland Clinic.

Being watered, oiled and ready to go can make all the difference between misery and a fun, high-performance exercise session, which is our goal in the Younger Games.



Super Basics

Super Basics

All week long in the build-up to the Super Bowl we’ve seen video clips of the players on both teams doing warm-ups and drills. You see the same old-same old mundane exercises, nothing exotic or special, like Patriots QB Brady and tight end Gronkowski doing high-knees in the picture below.

They have been doing these, over and over again, through all their athletic lives. There’s an important purpose for these that applies to all the rest of us.


These super athletes are bigger, stronger and faster models of the same bodies all humans have had for the past 200,000 years. Whether elite or average, young or old, the human body really moves with a few basic functional patterns – single-leg movements like walking and running, squatting and lifting, rotating, and pushing and pulling. The dazzling array of movements you see in super athletes, no matter what the sport, are just variations of these basics, performed with speed and power.

That’s why they spend so much time on the movement basics. By doing the time proven stretches, balance and agility drills, elite athletes maximize their range of motion, ensure fast brain-to-muscle communication, promote a high level of performance, and avoid risk of injury. From practicing the simple drill in the picture, when Brady has to evade a defender reaching for his leg, he can quickly leap on one leg and land securely without pulling a muscle or twisting an ankle.

The movements we need to perform all our lives require regular repetition and practice. That’s why we do so many of them in the Younger Games. The phrase “Use it or lose it” is true. Many un-young adults lose their natural physical abilities not because of a medical problem, but disuse.

For professional super athletes, the stakes are high – careers, bonuses, endorsements, records, team success. For 50+ adults the stakes are high as well – independence, being able to work or recreate, minimizing injuries and enjoying all that life has to offer.

Practicing the basics requires effort and sweat, sometimes they are hard or boring. But there’s a big payoff. You’re in the game.