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.
Mark Liszt, a food broker from Los Angeles, has had operations on both knees and a toe. A doctor has suggested a total replacement of his right knee, but he’s afraid it will affect his ability to play ball. At 59, Liszt can’t stop. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he plays basketball with guys who are sometimes half his age. On Saturday, he hobbles around all day with serious knee pain. Friends and family have referred him to doctors, but he’s stayed away. “I don’t want to be told what a fool I am,” he says...
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.