Fit For The Outdoors
Staying Fit For The Outdoors
September 1, 2022
Take Good Care Of You So You Can Continue To Enjoy
As I've gotten older, I've had some challenges as a hunter and shooter. Things like eye problems, aching joints, and less stamina can quickly get out of hand if you don't do something about them early. I'm not going to admit my age here, but suffice it to say that I acquired my Pioneer Hunting License a couple of years ago!
Yet, here I am, plugging along! We still go hunting for doves, quail, blue grouse, and Coues. Margie and I go off-roading, camping, and hiking every week or so, and I can still keep up with my granddaughters on the trail. We also love to shoot sporting clays and target shoot.
Fact is, you don't stay in good condition by accident unless you're gifted with amazing genes. And truth to tell, I probably wouldn't be in this good of shape if it wasn't for having a great partner to encourage me. In fact, it was Margie who got me started going to the gym almost twenty years ago! Now we encourage each other.
So today I thought I'd share some advice on how to stay in the best condition that you can so that you can continue to enjoy hunting and shooting for as long as you want to. This involves not only exercise, but sometimes taking the right supplements.
I wish I'd gotten (and followed!) this advice forty years ago!
The Arizona sunshine is a huge blessing that even we outdoorsmen often take for granted or even bad-mouth (summer temps, anyone?). You probably know that sunlight is damaging to your skin, but did you know it can hurt your eyes as well? I think we can all agree that eyesight is important for shooting and hunting!
Damage from ultraviolet light can not only cause wrinkles, it can actually sunburn your corneas or even cause or accelerate cataract development. In my case, with macular degeneration, some studies show that age-related macular degeneration can be exacerbated by sun exposure, and Margie, who's been a hunter since she was a kid, has early cataracts.
It may not be possible to prevent all eye problems, but there are things you can do to help your eyes. First, wear good sunglasses with 400 SPF UV-blocking protection. I wish I'd done that in my youth! Start now!
Blue light also damages your eyes, and that blue light is a given with any device that uses LED technology. That includes laptops, cell phones, tablets, flat-screen TVs, etc. Margie bought me blue-light-blocking screen protectors for my phone and tablet. Blue light can also disrupt sleep and can even reduce your metabolism, making it harder for you to stay in hunting condition.
If you have an iPhone, you can reduce blue light by turning on Night Shift by going to Settings > Display and Brightness > Night Shift. On a Samsung try settings > display options > blue light filter.
You can also buy special eye vitamins. My doctor at Retinal Consultants had me on I-Vits, but he's re-doing the formula so he recommended Bausch+LombPreservision AREDS 2 in the meantime. It's actually been proven to substantially reduce the risk of macular degeneration in adults over 50. A good eye vitamin should have lutein and zeaxanthin. Another good one is Eye Science Macular Health Formula.
I-Vits had Lutein 10mg, Zeaxanthin 2 mg, Vitamin C 500 mg, Vitamin E 400 IU, Copper 2 mg, and Zinc 25 mg. I take the AREDS 2 in addition to ginko biloba, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Bilberry. You can find a lot of info about these helpful supplements online, and be sure to ask your doctor before taking any of this stuff.
Glasses, Vitamins, And Hat
In addition to sunglasses, vitamins, and other supplements, a hat is a great way to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them from the sun. A hat with a wide brim that can protect your ears and the back of your neck is preferable.
(Side note: I didn't know I had macular degeneration until I went for an eye exam to an actual doctor. I was seeing strange bends and humps in things and had no idea what it meant. The eyeglasses guy in the local strip mall totally missed it, in spite of looking into my eyes. Look up Amsler Grid on the internet and find out about that.) https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/news/amsler-grid-eye-test
Joints And Muscles
Working out at the gym is one of the best ways to stay in shape for me, but I have buddies who do all their work solo at home. When the gyms were closed, Margie and I bought several different kinds of bands, as well as a doorway chin-up bar. I installed a handicap grab bar vertically near the doorway to attach bands to, and we were able to get some excellent workouts at home.
I also built step-up stools for both of us, so between those and the bands we were able to stay in shape for the duration. Still, we were really happy to be able to get back to the gym. If you're on Medicare with an Advantage plan, you probably have a free gym membership thrown in. Take it! If you're not sure what to do, start with some classes.
Margie's trainer asked us to come to a Senior Fitness class that she was beginning to teach, so because we really like her, we went. We were afraid it would be lame, but she kicked our butts! It was set up so you could make it easier or harder depending on what level you're at, and a class like that can give you a lot of moves to start with.
Joints can be a real problem as you get older. Mine are fine, knock on wood, but Margie struggles with knee problems and is adamant about not having surgery. We bought her a personal trainer for six months, (Courtney at VASA), and she has done wonders. The key is to strengthen the muscles around the problem joint without damaging the joint any more. This is something you need to discuss with a professional.
These May Help
Every trainer I've ever had has recommended Glucosamine and Chondroitin to support joint health, and even our veterinarian told us to give it to our old dog when arthritis began to slow her down. Some brands also contain things like turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties and might help arthritis.
My doctor also recommends a multivitamin to all of his patients, because these days it's rare to get all you need from your diet alone. Even the best diet in the world can be missing some key minerals and/or vitamins. If you're a senior, they make special vitamins, and Margie and I also take gender-specific vitamins.
Vitamin D has gotten a lot of press since Covid-19 reared its ugly head. It seems that people with Vitamin D deficiency are 14 times more likely to have a severe or critical case of COVID-19. Also, the mortality rate for those with insufficient vitamin D levels was 25.6%, compared to 2.3% among those with adequate levels. https://health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/what-is-the-link-between-vitamin-d-levels-and-covid-19/2022/02
You might think that because you spend so much time in the outdoors, you get plenty of Vitamin D. Think again. Do you wear the recommended sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat? Long sleeves? All of those block the sun, so you're not getting a ton of Vitamin D there.
As for us, Margie is vegan so the only milk in our house is almond milk, meaning we don't get Vitamin D from milk either. Our doctor recommended taking 1000 mg of Vitamin D per day, which is a tiny little capsule.
Bottom Line: Talk To Your Doctor!
If your eyes, joints, muscles, or whatever are giving you trouble, go to the doctor! I can almost guarantee that it won't get better on its own. Ask specifically about recommendations for supplements that could help, and let him or her know the foods you normally eat. You may be surprised at what he/she recommends. And be sure to shop around because prices for vitamins and supplements are all over the place. Also, personally, I will never buy any vitamins or supplements (even for my dog) that come from China.
For Your Four-Legged Buddy
If you have a furry hunting buddy, ask your vet about supplements for him or her too. Our veterinarian recommended Welactin for Mochi – it's an Omega 3 supplement that helps her skin and coat. For the most part, good high-quality dog foods have all the vitamins and minerals a dog needs. We give Mochi Purina Pro Plan. She loves the shred varieties!
This article wasn't meant to diagnose or help you treat any conditions – I'm just giving you my experience, and since everyone's body is unique, you need to ask for professional advice before taking any supplements or vitamins. I'm definitely not a professional – I'm just an old guy who wants to stay healthy and strong as long as possible!