In 2007, more than 149,000 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, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.
"When you are 50, you may injure your body more easily than when you were 20," says James Keeney, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Leadership Fellows Program. "Joints, tissues and muscles may not be as flexible as they used to be. So as you get older, you need to take extra steps to protect yourself from injuries when you exercise."
The AAOS offers the following tips to help boomers prevent exercise-related injuries:
- Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. A physician will make sure your heart is in good condition and can make recommendations based on your current fitness level. This is especially important if you've had a previous injury.
- Always warm up and stretch before exercising. Cold muscles are more likely to get injured, so warm up with some light exercise for at least 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.
- Don't be afraid to take lessons. An instructor can help ensure you're using the proper form, 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. Also, make sure to introduce new exercises gradually, so you don't take on too much at once.
- Take calcium and Vitamin D supplements daily.
- Listen to your body. As you age, you may not be able to do some of the activities that you did years ago. 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.
Baby boomers who exercise regularly are less likely to experience depression, weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep disturbances, so it's important to incorporate physical activity into your routine at any age.