I enjoy running because it keeps me strong and helps me stay fit. However, since our strengths as individuals reduce with age, it may be confusing to someone who is in his fifties like me to tell whether or not running at such an age can have an effect on one’s body especially on joints such as the knees.
First and foremost, there is no proof that exercising after age 50 is damaging to your health. On the contrary, you can get much stronger after age 50 if only you exercise more by running, jogging, or doing cardio.
However, there are some key points to note if you decide to become more athletic in your fifties. According to Women’s Running:
- Aerobic capacity (VO2 max) declines.
- Maximal heart rate is reduced.
- The volume of blood pumped with each heartbeat decreases.
- Muscle fibers are lost, resulting in decreased muscle mass and less strength.
- Aerobic enzymes in the muscles become less effective and abundant.
- Blood volume is reduced.
Many people are concerned about the report that certain conditions (especially arthritis) are prone to be evident in one’s fifties. In another research by MyHealthNewsDaily experts were asked the question “Is running bad for your knees?” The answers to this question were published on Live Science. Dr. Lewis Maharam, one of the experts, confirmed that arthritis is not caused by old age. However, it is a genetic problem that is evident as one gets older. In other possible cases, people who have a number of injuries, broken bones or ligament injuries can be prone to arthritis.
Inasmuch as exercising by way of running in my case is recommended, most experts advise not to make it too intense in the beginning. This is not because the exercise is not good, but your aging body may not be used to and prepared for the new habit as most of the accessories to support it like blood volume, muscle fibers and aerobic capacity may be lower than the average.
On the part of the effects that running (and exercising in general) have on knee joints, it is both good and bad. According to Dr. Michelle Wolcott, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and an expert on the MyHealthNewsDaily research, running can make or not make things “harder” on your knee joints depending on the ‘type’ of weight you have. Whereas lean weight (muscle weight) can help to support your joints and bones, weight from just fat can add to the stress on your knees because fat weight is non-functional.
Another concern is osteoarthritis of the knees. Like normal arthritis, genetical history largely affects the rate of getting osteoarthritis. However, it is more likely for obese people in their fifties to get osteoarthritis because of the pressure they exert on the knee cartilage. This pressure, over time can break down the knee if care is not taken.
With that said, here are some pros and cons of running after age 50.
- You can reduce age-related aerobic fitness decline by up to 50%.
- It will increase your energy levels.
- Running will enhance your sleep levels which reduce with age.
- You will be a healthier and stronger than most of your non-running friends.
- There may be medical pessimism and negativity about aging to stop you.
- Running can be “intimidating” and quite uncomfortable when starting in your fifties than when younger.
- It will take a lot of energy out of you initially.
To sum it up, I now understand why running is important for me even in my fifties and should be recommended for the sake of one’s health. It is important to start small, check your medical status (seek medical advice accordingly) and on top of it all get enough rest. Let’s get running!