Boomer Esiason is both a baby boomer and a former professional football player, which makes him the perfect go-to guy to discuss the aches and pains of being active and over 40 -- a set of conditions that has playfully inspired the medical term "boomeritis." (The fact that Esiason's first name is "Boomer" only underscores his qualifications.)
Of course not every baby boomer is a Boomer. But many 40-, 50- and even 60-somethings are weekend warriors, meaning they play tennis four times a month, run 5 miles on their days off, or even tackle a Saturday afternoon game of touch football.
Gray hair creeps up on you — sometimes literally. I was in my 30s, sporting a full beard, when I first noticed a few gray hairs appearing. Then there were more than just a few. It wasn’t long before the lumberjack image was beginning to give way to something closer to Old Father Time.
It wasn’t just the image that bothered me. It was the way I felt. Sure, gray hair is supposed to make men look distinguished. To give them gravitas. Look at Bill Clinton. Look at the baby-faced newsman Anderson Cooper,...
Bottom line? If you are over 40 and athletic, chances are you're feeling some pain come Monday morning. Stiffened joints, aching muscles, and slow-moving limbs are the most common side effects weekend warriors often experience. And while these physical setbacks may tempt you to sit on the sidelines forever, most doctors recommend doing just the opposite. In other words: Get up, get out, and play more.
Move Your Body
At 44, Esiason is far from being the oldest member of the baby boom generation. But after 14 years in the NFL, his body has taken more punishment than the average adult sees in a lifetime, making him something of an expert on pain management. And he credits his physical and mental health to staying active.
And staying active is something all boomers should do.
"Activity is the key to life," Esiason says. "It's the most important thing for a sound mind and a sound body. The miserable times in my life are when I am not active. When I am working out [regularly] and competing in something, my level of getting things done rises immensely."
That might sound good coming from a pro athlete, right? But in fact, medical research supports Esiason's position. Studies show people who exercise regularly have increased energy and think, sleep, and cope with stress better.
"Once you're an athlete, I don't care if you started in high school or college or whenever, you still have this competitive edge," Timothy E. Kremchek, MD, tells WebMD the Magazine. "You don't have to be under a certain age to be competitive. And that can be very healthy if not taken too far. What we do in sports medicine is to make people understand how to do it the right way."
Kremchek, a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), is experienced in treating both professional athletes and weekend warriors.
Do It the Right Way
According to Kremchek, there are two kinds of physical activity problems for baby boomers: The first, and most common, is not getting enough exercise. The second is forgetting one's age.
"We are in society where we want to do at 45 what we did at 25, and to do at 65 what we did at 45," he says. "It is my goal to keep people out there and active and healthy in a safe way. The key, as Boomer told you, is to do things you enjoy, whether it is running or golf or swimming or hockey, but to do it the right way."