Healthy Feet for Senior Athletes
by Dr. James Longobardi & Nancy Fredericks
In 1999, 31 million people, or 12% of the U.S. population was 65 years or older. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that figure will double to 62 million people by 2025, equal to 1 in every 5 Americans. The "baby boomer" generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, are aging. The good news is, that's the same generation that made exercise a routine in their life schedules!
As the "baby boomers" age, they are becoming Senior Athletes. Medical science continues to evolve, allowing us all to live longer and hopefully, healthier lives. Today the average life expectancy is 76. But by the year 2030, the average life expectancy is projected to be 80 years old. We now have the opportunity to exercise for more years, positively contributing to the quality of our lives.
What are the benefits of exercise and if I don't exercise now, why would I want to?
Exercise provides physiologic or physical changes that enhance and may slow the progressive decline of body function that occurs with inactivity or aging. It increases muscle strength, flexibility, and range of motion, plus balance and endurance. Exercise enhances posture, can help fight osteoporosis and is documented to reduce lethargy (listlessness) and depression. What could be better than exercising to promote your own self-sufficiency?
What do aging and exercise have to do with my feet?
Remember that the majority of exercises rely heavily on your feet. Imagine trying to golf, walk, dance or even chase your grandchildren with sore feet. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, when a 150-pound jogger runs 3 miles, the cumulative impact on each foot is more than 150 tons! Painful feet can cause a decline in health by lessening mobility, and increases in weight and listlessness. If you want to live your life actively, then please care for your feet.
Wear comfortable shoes. Purchase exercise shoes at the end of the day, when feet are generally a little larger or more swollen. Wear the appropriate socks for cushioning and protection. If you have tender soles, look for socks with an extra layer of padding on the bottom, in sporting good stores. Check your shoes periodically for wear, stones or deterioration of the insole. Replace or repair damaged shoes. If you are an athlete, inspect your athletic shoes for wear at least every 6 months and replace them frequently.
If your shoes are wearing excessively on one or more edges, consult a Podiatrist with computerized gait analysis equipment. Have your walk or gait analyzed. Simple orthotic appliances or inserts in your shoes can help your foot strike the ground correctly and also take the pressure off your back, legs and knees, decreasing your risk of low backaches and excessive stress to one particular area of your feet.
Increasing your stride, increases your cardiovascular workout and also promotes flexibility. Take healthy, forward moving steps, but watch where you are walking. Beware of uneven sidewalks and grassy areas. Protect your ankles by looking ahead of where you are walking. Looking straight down can make you dizzy. Look forward and plant your foot firmly in front of you.
If your feet swell in the evenings, prop them up on a footstool or pillow. Only go barefoot in places where you are familiar with the flooring, like in your home. Be careful of pets or children's toys. Repair carpets, so you don't trip. Watch-out for sharp edges on metal thresholds or floor air vents. A small cut can lead to a serious problem, if not taken care of properly.
If you don't exercise now, please consult your medical physician before you start. If you do exercise now, be sure to have regular check-ups. Take care of your feet. Be sure to see a Podiatrist for your foot and ankle care.