True: The effects of aging seem to accelerate after 65. Also true: "Walking and moving around is the single most important thing older people can do to extend their life expectancy and remain independent," says Bill Evans, of the University of Arkansas’s Institute on Aging. Heft a pack, hit uneven terrain, and the balance and strength gains pile up. Studies have shown that even inactive centenarians can triple their strength after 10 weeks of weight and cardiovascular training. Jump-start your fitness with our workout at the end of this article, then head out on the nearest trail.
A: Brain Mental acuity can wane in the golden years, resulting in slight cognitive impairment colloquially known as "senior moments." The fix: Walking regularly has been proven to combat mild cognitive impairment and fight depression.
B: Heart The valves that control the direction of blood flow get thicker and stiffer, limiting the amount of time you can spend in the red zone before heart attack becomes a real threat. The Fix: Studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 is effective in reducing heart stiffness, while boosting pumping action and electrical function. Help your body synthesize CoQ10 with wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout.
C: Bones Continued weakening can result in big injuries from small falls. The fix: Fight osteoporosis with calcium (1,000-1,200 milligrams/day) and vitamins D (600 IU per day) and K (80 micrograms per day). Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, as does sunshine.
Water By age 70, total body water decreases by about 8 percent, which increases the risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and hypothermia. The fix: On trail days, drink half your body weight, in ounces (150 pounds = 75 ounces).
D: Muscle Strength losses accelerate to 30 percent per decade after 65, which can take your trail legs right out from under you–if you don’t use them. The fix: "With strength training, you can regain a decade’s loss in a matter of 6 months," says Stephen Reichman. Do more reps with less weight, and up your daily protein intake to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
E: Joints/cartilage/back Wear-and-tear decreases padding in the joints and back, leading to stiffness and pain when hiking. The fix: "Moving a joint loosens it," Lynn Millar says. At home, guide stiff joints through their full range of motion (arm swings for shoulders; squats for knees) 5 times per day. On the trail, repeat movements in the morning, at rest breaks, and in the evening. Pop 400 milligrams of anti-inflammatories 3 times per day.
F: Skin Your biggest organ thins with age, and your ability to heal wounds decreases. That makes open cuts more susceptible to infection, especially in the backcountry. The fix: Eat zinc (11 milligrams/day), which is found in high concentrations in pumpkin seeds, most nuts, and meat and dairy. If you do get a cut, flush, clean, and treat wounds promptly and thoroughly. And continue to slather on the SPF 40 sunscreen, especially at altitude.
G: Feet Years of use have worn out the padding under your instep and heel, which can create soreness from your feet all the way to your back. The fix: insoles (we like Superfeet’s Orange model, $45; superfeet.com).