Have you kept up with your new year's resolution to hit the gym or exercise more? Adding more activity to your life is a great idea. However, taking steps to avoid injury is especially important when starting a new exercise plan.
“Whether we exercise consistently, or are returning to regular activity, we need to be smart about exercise as we age,” explains Dr. Michael Shea, an orthopedic sports medicine doctor with Mercy Medical Group. “The older we are, the more susceptible to injury our tendons, muscles, joints can be. And if we do get injured, we don't bounce back as quickly.”
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that your new exercise routine doesn’t leave you on the sidelines.
First, ease into exercise. One sure way to hurt yourself is to do too much, too soon. Make sure your exercise plan always includes time to slowly warm up your muscles and gradually increase your heart rate.
Pay special attention to your core – these are the muscles in your abdomen around which all other muscles in your body pivot. Without a sturdy core, serving a tennis ball or even walking can strain outlying muscles.
Another area of concern as we age is our balance. “Poor balance can increase the injury risk for older adults,” says Dr. Shea. “Injuries suffered in even a small stumble can be quite significant.”
To improve your balance, try standing on one leg a few times a day. Hold for 20 seconds; switch legs. After mastering that, try the exercise with your eyes closed.
An important element of any fitness plan is strength training. That doesn’t have to mean lifting weights – it can be as easy as resistance training with bands or using your own body weight. However you choose to improve your strength, be sure your exercises are working your joints and working each area of your body.
As you continue your exercise plan, it is important to listen to your body. “If you feel pain, stop what you are doing,” says Dr. Shea. “If something is sore, take the time to gently stretch it out. And if you have an injury that limits your movement or doesn’t respond to ice, rest, and a short course of anti-inflammatories, then go see your doctor.”
Visit MyMercyMedicalGroup.org or call 916.733.5700 to learn more or make an appointment.