Staying Active and Injury-Free...At Any Age!

No one can argue that staying active can have multiple benefits. Adults that maintain a regular exercise program will find that exercise can help them: 

  • Maintain healthier weight
  • Have healthier cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Be at lower risk of suffering a heart attack
  • Lower their risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  • Have stronger bones, muscles and joints
  • Have a lower risk of falls
  • Improve mood
  • Improve sleep patterns

 

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One of the tricks of starting and sticking to an exercise program is to avoid injury.
 
There's nothing more frustrating than finally getting over inertia to start a fitness program, only to be sidelined by injury.
 
In my personal journey, I'm frequently discovering new sports and hobbies - or rediscovering. And if I find something I love, I tend to overdo it. As I got into my forties, I found out first-hand that charging hard at one sport without balancing that with cross-training resulted in some of the common overuse injuries. Sometimes, doctors just aren't good about listening to their own advice!
 
I got into tennis as a first-time player a little over a year ago. I loved the cardio aspect and also the mental and strategic aspect. I started to play A LOT and for a while, it took the place of my usual training. I'd get overuse problems cropping up left and right - literally - and up and down. As soon as one condition got better, another would appear.  First it was tennis elbow, then hamstring strain, then shoulder bursitis. I knew exactly where I was going wrong, but it was a process to take the steps to address these issues. Once I made myself slow down, cross train, stretch and rest, these overuse injuries were reigned in. I still play, but now, I reintroduced other exercise, including yoga and strength training.
 
Despite the increased risk of injury, staying active and fit have far more advantages than staying sedentary! So don't let the risk of injury deter you. The key is to be smart about remaining injury-free. 
 
Statistically, older athletes are more likely to injure themselves than younger athletes, but this should NOT deter you! It’s important to understand why older athletes are more likely to get injured, as this can help with prevention.
 
As we age, our cells and tissues are just not as good at regeneration. So that means, our musculoskeletal structures become less durable and their ability to heal is decreased. Bone loss also increases as we age. Changes in our connective tissue, which makes up tendons and ligaments, make them less flexible. This puts stress on the joints.
 
Some of the more common injuries we see in adults entering middle age and beyond include:
  • Muscle strains
  • Tendinitis or tendinosis
  • Neck and back pain
  • Aggravation of arthritic condition
Here are some tips for staying injury-free while remaining active:
  • Good prep: You might need extra time to warm up, stretch and cool down before playing sports. It might be more than you were used to doing if it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised or played a sport. 
  • Good training and conditioning: Don’t forget to incorporate what I call the “Four Pillars” of a well-balanced exercise program - Strength, Cardio, Flexibility and Mind-Body. Have a mix of all of the above. 
  • Good form: Don’t be afraid to work with a coach, take lessons, or work with a trainer. Proper form helps prevent injury!
  • Good gear: Making sure you have the right equipment is vital to keeping our bones and joints healthy. Remember to have the appropriate shoes, and don’t forget to replace them when they are worn out. If you’re a cyclist, have your bike fitted for you by an expert. If you’re participating in a sport with contact or fall-risk, remember your safety gear - helmets, wrist/elbow guards, knee/shin guards, eyewear.

As always, consult your personal physician before you start a new exercise regimen, particularly if you have not been regularly exercising. 

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