An Orthopedic Surgeon’s Guide to Fitness in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond….

Before completing my Sports Medicine Fellowship at Ohio State and joining Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana, I was a high school athlete… played football and baseball right here in Shreveport, Louisiana at Captain Shreve… I am still proud to call myself a Gator. Sports and fitness have always been a major part of my life… ultimately lending to my choice of profession. After joining Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana and Specialists Hospital Shreveport, it became pretty obvious that I wasn’t the only orthopedist who had been a high school athlete or had an ongoing love of sports and fitness. There are 12 partners in my group- we range in age from our thirties to our seventies, most of us are former high school/ collegiate athletes and all of us still include fitness in our lives… we are a mix of cross fit addicts, avid golfers and tennis players, runners, walkers, hunters and fishermen. We also are the parents/ grandparents of football players, soccer players, baseball/softball players, basketball players, gymnasts, dancers, etc. Sports and fitness are no longer pursuits of our youth, but an important factor in maintaining our health and wellbeing throughout our lives. So, with a busy practice, a lovely wife and three active little boys, how do I maintain a healthy fitness regime:

  1. I train for events like Tough Mudder- a 10-12-mile obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces. Goals are good and training and partaking in events like Tough Mudder require you to focus on cardio and strengthening daily. Not unlike Cross Fit, you become part of a community, which also allows for greater accountability.
  2. I coach for my boys’ teams and plan activities with my family. Sure, my boys are young and the training may not be super intense, but running after these little guys inspires me to stay in shape.
  3. I love golf and I will not forget it. It may be a cliché about doctors and golf, and I may secretly hope that on some days, I get to cut clinic a little early to hit the links, but I will always aspire to better my game and if I am lucky enough to play, I am happy to get a little extra cardio in by being my own caddy.
  4. I practice what I preach. I know the better shape I am in and my commitment to cardio/ strengthening exercise, the better resource I am to my patients.

So with all the benefits of exercise, why are we not all joining the gym, becoming a cross fit junkie or even just taking a walk around the block for thirty minutes? Because we are living longer, we are learning that maintaining a healthy level of exercise in our 30s, 40s and 50s can greatly assist in sustaining a healthy weight and muscle strength. Consistent exercise and healthy diet throughout middle age is also a considerable factor in the prevention of hypertension and heart disease later in life. There are a lot of excuses and one of the greatest is that there is not enough time in our busy schedules… middle age comes with a lot of responsibilities, that sometimes prevent us from taking time to take care of ourselves. Another factor is injury or joint pain. Many patients come in for an evaluation complaining about joint pain- knee, hip, shoulder, or foot pain, back pain. They have often been unable to maintain a fitness regime because of this pain. The lack of exercise has often led to weight gain and muscle weakness. They may think they are too young for an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon and too young and too busy for possible orthopedic surgery. Today, with the advances in orthopedic care, the non-surgical and surgical options in orthopedics, there are options that allow for shorter recovery times and quicker return to an active lifestyle. With robotic innovation, like MAKOplasty, we currently offer partial knee replacement and total hip replacement. Within the next year, we are hoping to offer robotic total knee replacement and in the next 4-5 years robotic total shoulder replacement. This robotic technology means shorter recovery periods and consistent results.

So, I will end with a few suggestions:

  1. Nike says its best… JUST DO IT! Whether it’s a walk around the block after dinner or walking with a co-worker at lunch, try to add 30 minutes of cardio into your day. And, don’t forget strengthening exercises… 50 sit-ups, 25 push-ups, 25 squats= healthy heart and healthy joints!
  2. Don’t necessarily believe the old adage, no pain, no gain. If something hurts and prevents you from maintaining an exercise regime, consult an orthopedic surgeon or your general practitioner. If you hurt, your less likely to be able to maintain an exercise regime.
  3. Make fitness fun and incorporate opportunities to include family and friends.
    Stay active and remember, if you are just getting back into any type of fitness regime, it’s always a good idea to consult your family doctor before doing so.

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    An Orthopedic Surgeon's Guide to Fitness, Val Irion, MD

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