5 ways to avoid an exercise injury after the age of 50

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While staying safe in a gym took on a whole new meaning during the pandemic, if you’re considering resuming a fitness program this summer, you’ll be wise to consider the more pedestrian dangers involving treadmills and bench presses – especially if you are over 50.

Exercise-related emergency room visits topped 107,000 for those 50 and over in 2020, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission – and that figure is slightly lower than normal due to fewer people doing exercise during the pandemic. And speaking of treadmills: About 20,000 people in the United States are treated in emergency rooms for injuries from this single piece of equipment each year.

“Exercising the wrong way can be worse than doing nothing at all,” says Jeremy James, chiropractor and creator of a home fitness program designed for the elderly or those with pre-existing injuries.

The good news? It’s not difficult to stay safe and enjoy the many health benefits of exercise (including helping you avoid fall injuries after 50 by building leg muscles and improving your balance) . You just need to stay focused and follow a few key tips. Here’s your first: wear this red safety clip while on the treadmill to stop the belt if you start to slip or trip.

Here are some other smart ways to avoid common mistakes that can lead to injury.

1. Calm down

It’s good to be excited to exercise, but don’t let that motivation push you too far, too fast. “A lot of times people just jump right into workouts that aren’t meant for beginners, and they haven’t developed muscle, especially core strength,” to do it in proper form, says James. This is especially risky with strength training, where neglecting the proper form for expressing a certain number of reps can lead to injuries such as rotator cuff tears and lower back strain.

Advice from James: “Use only the amount of resistance or weight and the number of reps you can do with perfect form.” The last two or three reps should be hard, but not so hard that you have to break form. “

2. Stop skipping your warm-up

While stretches (the kind you do by standing still and flexing a calf or hamstring) can be done anytime during or after your workout, there is no evidence that it helps prevent injury. . What should you do instead? A warm-up.

Unlike stretching, a warm-up involves movements similar to your workout but done more slowly. “The purpose of a warm-up is to increase blood flow to the muscles, improve tissue elasticity and stimulate the nervous system,” says Lauren Shroyer, certified trainer and senior director of product development at the American Council on Exercise. “Think of it as a slow acceleration in your workout. Warming up is important to avoid injury, especially as we age and our soft tissues become less elastic. “

This doesn’t mean that you can skip stretching altogether. Simply save it for after your warm-up (when the tissues are warm) or the end of your session. Stretching can reduce the buildup of lactic acid in muscle tissue, which contributes to persistent pain. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching each muscle group for at least 60 seconds.

3. Invest in the right shoes

“There is no shoe that can prevent injury, but there are certainly a lot that can cause it in the wrong person,” says Matthew Klein, Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and Founder of Doctors of Running. Shoes that are too narrow in the front (the area called the toe box) can keep your feet in positions that can predispose you to a bunion.As you age, the risk of soft tissue injuries that affect areas like the calf and the Achilles tendon is also increasing, he adds.

In general, Klein says to look for a shoe designed for the activity you plan to do the most. Basketball shoes, for example, are designed with lateral movement in mind, unlike running shoes. Buy from a specialty store where employees have been trained to guide you (REI is one of the few big box retailers to do this, Klein says). Because your feet swell throughout the day, buy shoes in the afternoon or evening for the best fit; you should be half to the width of an inch between the tip of the toe and the tip of the shoe, he notes.



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