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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

Fitness Special—Hike Forever: Age 65 & Up

Stay in shape with these workout tips, and advice from a fitness hero.

by: Casey Lyons


 

 

Eat Right and Stay in Shape

Eat Right
Your mission is simple: Fight free radicals. These reactive compounds attack cell membranes, red blood cells, and tissue, and they contribute to risk factors for chronic diseases like arthritis, immune dysfunction, Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, and cancer. They come from food (especially commercial cooking oils), exposure to UV radiation, and, paradoxically, exercise itself. When the body is young, working out stimulates the production of free-radical-fighting antioxidants within muscle tissue. With age, its ability to produce antioxidants decreases, so you'll need to get more from your diet. Eat plenty of berries, especially blueberries and blackberries (get 'em trailside!), and pack cherries, cranberries, and goji berries, some of the most powerful antioxidants available.

Age-Defying Digestives
Promote a healthy heart and fight cancer-causing free radicals with this fruity snack high in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.

1 1/2 cup raw cashews, lightly toasted
1 cup raw or crispy macadamia nuts
1/2 cup dried papaya, cut small
1 cup dried mango, cut small
1 cup dried pineapple, cubed
1 cup dried coconut flakes

Longevity
Pose legs up a tree
Older hikers have a harder time moving around for long periods without getting stiff. This pose eases joint pressure and stimulates circulation, which flushes lactic acid and reduces post-hike soreness. How: lay your sleeping pad at the base of a large rock or tree. stand with your shoulder against the boulder while you slide to the ground. Swing your legs around and up the rock. rest here for 5 to 15 minutes, then use your fingers to "rake" your skin from ankle to pelvis. Do 10 rakes.

No Limits
In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that a group of "very frail" 87-year-olds increased leg strength by 113 percent over 10 weeks with high-intensity strength training every other day.

Double your strength in 10 weeks
"There's no need to reduce your workouts just because of your age," says Evelyn O'Neill, manager of exercise services at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston. Her prescription for maximum strength gains? Do the following exercises every other day in three sets of eight repetitions. Lift six seconds on the way up, three on the way down, resting 1-2 seconds between reps and two minutes between sets. Use 1- to 10-pound ankle weights for all exercises.

1. Seated leg extension From a seated position, slowly extend your right leg until it's parallel with the ground, then lower. Do three sets of eight reps for each leg.

2. Standing leg curl Stand behind a chair with your legs together. Slowly lift the right foot, bending the knee and moving the right heel toward the glutes. Lower back to the ground. Do three sets of eight reps. Switch sides.

3. Standing hip abduction Stand behind a chair with your legs together. Keeping your toes pointed forward and leg straight, raise your right leg out to the side. Lower it slowly. Do three sets of eight reps, then switch sides.
Trail mix recipes by Esther Cohen (sevenbowls.com)
Yoga poses by Margaret Burns Vap (bigskyyogaretreats.com)


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DO NOT take just any anti-inflamatory drug in 400mg doses! The article doubtlessly is basing the recommendation on ibuprofen (eg: Motrin). Taking that dose of some of the many others (including some available without prescription in other countries) could be disasterous.

Gary
Jan 15, 2011

It all depends on what you hope to accomplish. If you hope to do long thru hikes you need endurance, for day hikes less but for peak bagging it is another story. I am 70 and have been hiking since 8 yrs old including a stint in the 82nd Airborne. Over the years I have found that moderate upper body training with weight in a typical workout routine plus just plain hiking is all I need. I train all year long but then I am hiking about all year long also with training intervals based on what I want to do. Recovery time is critical as you age if you do not want injuries. Do not go for heavy weights or push to hard on the hikes. Your body will tell you when you are pushing too hard. I try to do 3 weight training sessions a week and 3 days of hiking with weight (typically 20 - 30 lbs for 3 - 5 miles). I find a week of less intensity a month helps recovery but keep moving - take a walk of lesser mileage, work in the yard, whatever. I am fortunate to be able to hike in the woods year around here in Florida but I take to the western mountains from spring to fall. When I first go out I slow down and start training at elevation working up to 8000' after a month or so. I bag 13,000 - 14,000' peaks every year with the help of my son that lives in Colorado. I ran into a lady on the trail with a group who was 92 yrs old and still hiking and loving it. It takes really wanting to stay in shape or it will not be fun. A little extra planning and going light also help. See you out there....

Ray Anderson
Jul 29, 2010

I am 66 and have been extremely active for the past 35 yrs, marathon running, skiing, climbing, backpacking, and bicycling. I had two knee replacements a couple of years ago so I no longer run, but do everything else that I used to do. I stay in shape for these activities by bicycling, lifting weights and using an elliptical trainer. The only problem is that I tend to get too intense and get injured more than I used to. The only books I can find for the aging athlete seem to address beginners and people who are trying to get back into shape. Do you know of any books that adress the needs of lifetime athletes who have no desire to stop being one?
Thank you,
Ray Anderson

Ancient Sinner
Mar 17, 2010

I used to hike a lot when younger but a lifetime at sea kind of put the brakes on that. I started up again at 62 and will be 66 soon. I agree that the exercises here are a bit on the light side. They seem more like something for someone in rehab. I am way past that but I still struggle on the uphills. With all the specialized websites wouldn't it be great if we had one that focuses on the senior hikers.

Ancient Sinner
Mar 17, 2010

I used to hike a lot when younger but a lifetime at sea kind of put the brakes on that. I started up again at 62 and will be 66 soon. I agree that the exercises here are a bit on the light side. They seem more like something for someone in rehab. I am way past that but I still struggle on the uphills. With all the specialized websites wouldn't it be great if we had one that focuses on the senior hikers.

Colorado Pete
Mar 17, 2010

I have been backpacking for 47 years and am now nearly 77. I still average 3 pack trips a year, typically 4 to 8 miles round trip. I have worked to reduce my pack weight to under 30 pounds. I will be hiking the Grand Canyon at the end of April and consider this to be one of the most strenuous trips. This will be my 4th hike into the Canyon and probably my last there. I day hike all through the winter months, weather permitting here in Colorado, to keep myself in shape. I recently began using trekking poles as my sense of balance has deteriorated somewhat. They do help! I do not smoke or drink alcohol and have managed to keep my weight under control. I plan my hikes using the NG Topo map program on the computer and keep my pack trips in the mountains to under 15% max. average grade. All of this works for me and barring any serious injury, I hope to be able to continue the sport that I dearly love.
A final word of advice: plan your hikes carefully, keeping in mind your age and limitations. Don't overdo it!

Daryl Sturdy
Mar 16, 2010

If you're in really good shape for your age, I find that programs for my age group, 65+, don't fit. Try going down and age group and work out with the kids.

Anita Griffin
Mar 16, 2010

I am 70. Theses exercises do not appear to be tough enough to prepare for backpacking. What do other 70+ backpackers do to get ready for a trip?

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