It's the month after (you made all those New Year's resolutions) and the morning after (you broke most of them while sitting on a couch consuming thousands of calories while watching other people play a sport that would probably kill you).
Adults of a certain age, especially, could use a little inspiration today.
Vonda Wright is happy to oblige. Wright is an orthopedic surgeon who advises and studies aging athletes, including competitors in the Senior Olympics. She also runs a program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that gets aging couch potatoes on their feet and into a 5K walk or run in 12 weeks. She's the author of a new book, Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age.
Q: Are some sports — football, for example — just a bad idea for older adults?
A: I do hope people sitting on the couch and watching football will be inspired and will want to go out and rediscover the athlete they once were. For a 40-, 50- or 60-year-old, I'm not opposed to flag football or a good game of touch football. But to really tackle each other, well, there's a price to pay.
Q: Inspiration can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Tell me what you saw in your office during the Beijing Olympics.
A: There was a surge of the weekend-warrior types: middle-aged people who hadn't exercised in a while or who had been exercising but took it to the next level too rapidly. We saw lots of knee pain.
Q: You say one of the greatest barriers to exercise in folks over 40 is "couch addiction." What's the cure for that?
A: There are several. But here's one idea: Instead of every night lying down on the couch after dinner with a full belly and watching the news, how about we put a few resistance bands in our TV room and, while we're watching the news, we do an upper-body workout? Or lean up against a living room wall and do some squats … Just turn that place you love into a gym.
Q: Two other big barriers are injuries and osteoarthritis. Don't some people with these problems just have to give up their favorite sports or fitness routines?
A: Modify, modify, modify … I have a patient who is an ultra-marathoner who has arthritis and he was skiing and he tore his (knee ligament). Another doctor told him he would have to give up the ultra-marathons. But we found new ways for him to train, and he's continuing. Now, there are cases where people have to stop a sport, but I encourage them to find an alternative. If you can't do cardiac by running, you can do cardiac by rowing.
Q: What's the biggest mistake older exercisers make?
A: It's the terrible toos: too much, too soon, too often … The biggest mistake is not to investigate a safer way to exercise. And No. 2 is not having a well-rounded program.
Q: Do most people need help to get started — or can most, as the Nike ads say, "just do it?"
A: If most people could just do it, they would just do it. Most need a little bit of hand-holding — whether it comes in the form of grabbing a neighbor as an exercise partner, joining a group like mine or hiring an athletic or personal trainer.
Q: You also work with elite aging athletes. Do these people have some special quality?
A: Incredible mental fortitude. They will tell you that the best years of their lives are the second 40 or 50. They can't wait to get up in the morning.
News release provided by USA Today. Visit for more headlines.


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