Avoid Injury while Exercising

Take Care when Exercising not to Overstress Your Body

Whether it’s tennis, swimming, backyard baseball or cricket, cycling, bushwalking or just doing more gardening, everyone feels like exercising when the weather is warm.

Baby Boomers (aged between 45 and 64) are known for their ‘forever young’ attitude, but orthopaedic surgeons and exercise gurus suggest middle-aged people should take a more adult attitude and remember that their bodies are not as young as they used to be.

“Baby boomers have become increasingly active as they age and orthopaedic surgeons think this trend will continue,” says Dr Ray Monto of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

“One thing to keep in mind is that when you are 50, you may injure your body more easily than when you were 20.”

In 2008, more than 166,000 people between the ages of 45 and 64 were treated in emergency rooms, clinics and doctors’ offices for injuries related to exercise and exercise equipment.

Exercise Benefits Everyone Over 40

“Exercise is always beneficial for older people and in fact for people of any age, but especially after 40,” says Dr Tim Henwood, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland, who specialises in exercise and older adults.

“The benefits of physical activity and exercise for older adults are significant. However, very rarely are their injuries discussed and if they are, we often see comments like ‘the benefits outweigh the risks’.”

Medical research shows that people over 40 who exercise regularly are less likely to experience depression, weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep disturbances, so it’s important to enjoy physical activity as a regular routine at any age.

“Everybody, no matter what their age, should be trying to get a well rounded activity program,” Dr Henwood says.

“Ideally, I believe individuals should do something that raises their heart rate three days per week punctuated with a minimum of two days per week challenging their muscles.”

Don’t Overstress Your Body while Exercising

The problem is, he says, “individuals are jumping in too quick and ending up injured.” Joints, tissues and muscles may not be as flexible as they used to be.

Both doctors suggest that as people get older, they should take extra steps to protect themselves from injuries when exercising.

”A little extra stretching before and after exercise, for example, goes a long way,” Dr Monto says.

Dr Henwood says it helps to remember that “we are a little more susceptible to injury as we age, we are likely to fatigue quicker and require greater recovery time frames”, and make allowances for these changes.

“The best way to prevent that risk is start slow, be educated, set achievable goals and, probably the most important, consult an expert to help you get started and at the first sign of any problem.”

Tips to Avoid Injuries while Exercising

The AAOS offers the following exercise safety tips:

  • Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. This is especially important if you have had a previous injury.
  • Always warm up and stretch before exercising. Cold muscles are more likely to get injured, so warm up with light exercise for three to five minutes.
  • Avoid being a ‘weekend warrior.’ Moderate exercise every day is healthier and less likely to result in injury than heavy activity only on weekends.
  • Take lessons. An instructor can ensure you are doing the exercise correctly, which can prevent overuse injuries such as tendonitis and stress fractures.
  • Develop a balanced fitness program. Incorporate cardio, strength training and flexibility training to get a total body workout and prevent overuse injuries.
  • Introduce new exercises gradually, so you don’t take on too much at once.
  • Listen to your body. Pay attention to your body’s needs and abilities, and modify your workout accordingly.
  • Remember to rest. Schedule regular days off from exercise and rest when tired.

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