Playing the Long Game

Most people think of joint pain as something that holds them back in their workouts … or causes them to fall off track with their workouts.

You know the drill … achy lower back, cranky knees, ticked off shoulders …

But it isn’t just orthopedic stuff that can get in the way. It turns out there are some key biomarkers that tend to either flare up or diminish as we exercise, and not being aware of them could compromise our longevity.

Here are some of the red flags, and what to do about them:

Oxidative Stress: This is when the body becomes overwhelmed with free radicals, or unstable molecules that can result in cellular damage and accelerate the aging process. 

–What To Do: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (antioxidants), and incorporate proper rest and recovery days so you’re not overdoing it with your training.

Blood Glucose: Proper blood sugar regulation is imperative for overall health and longevity. A poor diet, stress and lack of sleep can impair the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels.

–What To Do: Eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, especially blueberries (loaded with flavonoids, which have been linked to better brain health with aging). Also, combining your berries with a protein source like meat or cheese can help keep blood sugar levels in check.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes healthy aging by promoting calcium absorption (bone health) and also helps regulate the nervous system and boost immunity. Vitamin D deficiency can leave us more susceptible to stress fractures and can cause poor sleep.

–What To Do: Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, egg yolks, fortified dairy products, swordfish and cheese. I personally recommend supplementing with Vitamin D, especially in the winter months when we’re getting less exposure to the sun.

Cortisol: This is your body’s stress hormone, and it can become elevated from unhealthy stress management, inadequate sleep, overtraining and lack of recovery.

–What To Do: Sleep at least 7 hours per night – preferably more, but start there – and engage in healthy stress-relieving practices (like yoga or meditation).

Magnesium: This mineral assists with healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels, boosts the immune system, and assists with muscle contractions (think weight training). Adequate magnesium levels contribute to improved sleep quality, mood and recovery from strenuous activities, and levels decrease as we age.

–What To Do: Eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, such as salmon, pumpkin seeds, and beans.

You see, it isn’t just achy joints that can set us back in our pursuit of heath and fitness as we age. Stress, diet and sleep play a critical role in our overall health and longevity.