Saw an interesting article in the Times Body & Soul today, which made me feel inspired. It was in the news recently that a 64 year old woman swam 110 miles,”proving the power of grit and determination above youth and strength”, in the words of the reporter, John Nash.
I was thinking about quoting from this in my running diary because it might encourage older runners who may be worried about damaging themselves with prolonged exercise and could deter others from taking up any form of exercise for fear of injury thinking of what has been “received wisdom” for years. Such “received wisdom” is changing all the time so it must be difficult to keep up with, not just for older people, but equally for the health professionals.
The usual convention when encouraging anyone to start exercising from middle life onwards is to insert a caution along the lines of “consult your family doctor before starting any strenuous exercise.” According to the experts in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, however this could not be more wrong. They say “The greatest threat to the health of the ageing athlete is not the ageing process itself but rather inactivity” (a quote fom Dr Darrell Menard, the lead researcher, himself a former nationally ranked elite runner.)
He goes on “There is less risk in activity than in continuous inactivity. It is more advisable to pass a careful physical examination if one intends to be sedentary, in order to establish whether one’s state of health is good enough to stand the inactivity”.