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Age 40 No Barrier to Running

August 19, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Don’t use hitting 40 as an excuse not to try running. Even if you’re not as vigorous as you used to be, experts say you could be capable of a lot more than you think.

″Most people over the age of 40 can run without any apparent problems, even if they’ve been sedentary for a long period of time,″ said D. Craig Huddy, who sees older exercisers as coordinator of faculty and staff wellness programs at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Running has advantages over less-intense exercises, such as walking, they say.

″You can burn more calories and get more fitness and more loss of body fat in a given time if you jog than if you walk,″ said Peter D. Wood of the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Palo Alto, Calif.

″You probably get more exercise from running than almost any other easily available aerobic exercise,″ said Dr. Ronald W. Smith, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle problems, who practices in Long Beach, Calif. Among the payoffs are lower blood pressure and other reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease, better general muscle condition, and possibly a brighter mood, he said.

The bottom line could be more years of vigorous activity for you, while your friends who don’t exercise become frail.

Before you start your runs, however, you may want to concede something to age and run over to your doctor’s, for a checkup and some advice.

Expect your doctor to encourage you to exercise, assuming you’re in good health. A Gallup survey found virtually unanimous agreement that most people over 40 don’t work out enough. The survey of 300 internists, family physicians and general practitioners also reported the doctors’ estimate that three of four people over 40 never even ask about exercise.

The checkup is to weed out those at risk. A limited number of people have serious heart, lung or joint problems that could keep them literally out of the running, Wood said.

A stress test - jogging on exercise equipment while your heart function is checked - may turn up some of these problems, although it carries no guarantee, he said.

Aging brings a slightly greater likelihood of injury, mostly to tendons and bones, said Smith. But people with back problems should pull out quickly if they start to hurt, he said.

″Injuries take more time to heal,″ said Dr. Peter J. Bruno, internist for pro hockey’s New York Rangers and pro basketball’s New York Knicks. You can cut down on that by acting swiftly to make sure small injuries don’t become worse, said Bruno.

Don’t over estimate the risk.

″It’s not so much age. The worse your general physical condition when you start, the more gently you should start,″ Wood said.

And you needn’t worry much about your knees, he said. If you had good joints to start with, you can expect to keep them. Older runners who develop knee problems tended to have had problems earlier, and usually from other sports, such as skiing, basketball and football, Wood said.

As for arthritis, a study in which Wood was one of the researchers found no greater risk in older runners than in non-runners. The study did find the runners’ bones got thicker and stronger.

Bone can become tougher when it’s stressed. It’s only when the stress is too great or too constant that injury results, Wood said. So the trick is to keep your exercise program comfortably below the risk level.

In Wood’s studies, starting exercisers begin by walking, increasing the time and distance slowly over two ot three months before switching to a slow jog of only 50 yards and building up from that.

Older runners should thoroughly stretch, especially in the calf, before they go out, said Smith. He also recommended running on asphalt, because it’s less hard than concrete. Grass is not a good surface for older runners. It’s less even, and therefore requires more work to keep the foot stable, he said.

And be sure your shoes have plenty of shock absorption, said Huddy. People over 40 tend to have more weight to plant on their feet.

END ADV for Release Mon. Aug. 19

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