Finding ways around your niggles — to exercise — is a necessary skill as you age
You’ve made two good observations about the need to not let the niggles and pains of age stop you exercising. I often hear people saying how they stopped going to the gym or even walking because of sore knees or a sore back or bad shoulders etc.
The solution is mental, in two parts, and also requires physical trial and error. The first part is having the belief that mobility and keeping moving is fundamentally healthy, and not doing so leads to mental and physical atrophy.
The second part requires that you are willing to invest — mentally — in developing a basic level of body awareness. This is needed so that you can safely keep moving and work around the problems.
Then comes the physical trial and error to find exercises that don’t aggravate any injuries or chronic conditions, but which keep you building muscle strength and endurance.
Some trainers advise against this because when one part of the body is injured other parts will overcompensate. This can lead to new strain and injury.
They are correct, and this is why developing good body awareness is important. You should err on the side of caution, but keep trying things and see how balanced and comfortable you feel to do these new activities.
If we did not do this then as we get older our niggles and pains would stop us from doing anything. Recently I badly twisted my ankle trail running. It was horrific, the worst exercise accident I have had in 20+ years.
I couldn’t walk for a few days but when I got back to I found that I could stand strongly (with good posture) without pain. I just couldn’t walk without pain. I went back to the gym and used kettlebells to keep my fit, and I also found that rowing was only mildly painful and cycling mildly painful.
It was six weeks before I could run again, but I kept fit in the meantime.
I pulled a tendon resulting in the same aggravation as tennis elbow. I had to stop all forms of exercises where there was a “catching” movement of weights — such as with a barbell or kettlebells. But I found could still row (to my surprise), and do many forms of exercises on the cable machine. This took 6 months to recover, but I kept fit.
I’ve also had a painful right knee for many years, strong enough pain to wake me every night (until recently). But the pain stops when I get it moving and lubricated. These things are just occupational hazards of being older.
We have to keep moving, mobility isn’t an option if we want to live longer better.