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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


 

 

COMMON AILMENT

Cardiopulmonary Disease
You feel fine walking on the flats, but add a pack and an incline and suddenly you're huffing and puffing or grabbing at your ticker. Stiffening of lung tissue and arteries causes shortness of breath, plus chest and arm pain. For women, ticker trouble manifests itself as pain in the throat following any exertion.

Prevent Eat a diet filled with monounsaturated fats, including fish oil. These foods promote elasticity in the heart and lung tissues. Kelly advises that new hikers over age 50 (and anyone with risk factors–obesity, family history, previous heart problems) get a stress test prior to a big trip.

Soothe "Chest pains aren't like cramps," says Kelly. "You can't walk through them. If you feel them, stop hiking immediately and take aspirin. Rest until the pain abates, then hike to safety. Rest and administer rescue meds (aspirin, an inhaler, or prescription heart medication) immediately.

Strengthen After consulting your doctor, ease into our training program for both cardiovascular and strength gains.



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Harvey Swenson
Aug 13, 2011

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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