The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that staying physically active and exercising regularly helps to enhance muscle and joint function, maintain bone strength, and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Exercise Tips for Increased Safety
If you are beginning an exercise program, get an OK from your health care provider, and start slowly to avoid sports injuries.
These exercise tips from the AAOS are designed for baby boomers, but they offer good advice for anyone who is starting an exercise program and wants to exercise safely:
- Always take time to warm up and stretch before physical activity. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
- Don't succumb to the "weekend warrior" syndrome. Compressing your physical activity into two days sets you up for trouble and doesn't increase your fitness level. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you're truly pressed for time, you can break it up into 10 minute chunks. Remember that moderate physical activity can include walking the dog, working in the gardening, playing with the kids and taking the stairs instead of an elevator.
- Take lessons and invest in good equipment. Whether you're a beginner or have been playing a sport for a long time, lessons are a worthwhile investment. Proper form and instruction reduce the chance of developing an "overuse" injury like tendonitis or stress fractures.
- Local park districts and athletic clubs offer lessons at varying levels of play for many sports.
- Select the proper shoes for your sport and use them only for that sport.
- When the treads start to look worn or the shoes are no longer as supportive, it is time to replace them.
- Listen to your body. As you age, you may find that you are not as flexible as you once were, or that you cannot tolerate the same types of activities that you did years ago. While no one is happy about getting older, you will be able to prevent injury by modifying your activity to accommodate your body's needs.
- Use the 10 percent rule. When changing your activity level, increase it in increments of no more than 10 percent per week.
- If you normally walk 2 miles a day and want to increase your fitness level, don't try to suddenly walk 4 miles. Slowly build up to more miles each week until you reach your higher goal.
- Also remember to use the 10 percent rule as your guide for strength training, and increase your weights gradually.
- Develop a balanced fitness program that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility. In addition to providing a total body workout, a balanced program will keep you from getting bored and lessen your chances of injury.
- Add activities and new exercises cautiously. No matter if you've been sedentary or are in good physical shape, don't try to take on too many activities at one time. It's best to add no more than one or two new activities per workout.
- Consult an orthopaedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist if you have, or have had, a sports or orthopaedic injury like tendonitis, arthritis, stress fracture, or low back pain. A specialist can help you develop a fitness routine that will promote wellness and minimize your risk of injury.
If you found these exercise tips helpful and you want more information about preventing injuries, call the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons public service line: 1-800-824-BONE (2663).