Those who pay attention to their health by exercising routinely, eating clean and seeing a doctor regularly, the goal is clear: stay healthy and strong to live a long and strong life. That’s what exercise is all about: strength, health, mobility, fitness and, okay, a good body is not a bad thing either. The thing is, as we get older, our body changes, and that means additional steps have to be taken to ensure we stay injury-free no matter how we train: indoors, outdoors, aerobics, strength training with weights, or resistance bands and cardiovascular work. Staying safe while we exercise becomes more important as we age. Various forms of exercise require different safety measures to keep you safe. From resistance bands to running and weight training, learning to do various exercises using correct form is important so you are not inadvertently injured. Here’s how to stay safe doing some basic exercises:
Resistance bands come in a variety of sizes and strengths. These bands, once used almost exclusively in nursing homes and for senior rehabilitation after surgery, have fast become a go-to way to get the benefits of weight training without ever leaving your home. The bands are inexpensive, lightweight, easy-to-use, and very safe and effective if they are used correctly.
To use resistance bands correctly, there are several things to keep in mind: fitness level at start of training program, condition of the bands, and a heavy enough object in your home to which you can anchor the band. Once you have the bands, pay close attention to using them correctly to get the most out of the bands fitness wise and to avoid injuring yourself. It is very important to not lock your joints when utilizing resistance bands. Elbows or knees should never be locked when doing ab, arm or leg work. Locking your joints when using resistance bands or lifting weights puts undue pressure on your joints and actually can cause pain and excessive wear and tear of the joint.
When using resistance bands, start slowly and build up resistance if you are new to fitness and resistance band training. If you are over 40, check with your doctor before starting a resistance band training program to ensure you do not have any underlying medical condition that can affect the pace at which you develop a resistance band fitness program.
The Mayo Clinic says it very well when it comes to weight training safety: “You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or professional athlete to reap the benefits of weight training. When done correctly, weight training can help you lose fat, increase your strength and muscle tone, and improve your bone density.” “If done incorrectly, however, weight training won’t give you these benefits—and may even lead to injury.” The clinic’s exercise experts recommend starting with a weight training professional, a personal trainer or physical therapist to learn proper form before starting weight training program, which, should be done at least twice a week, according to government recommendations for an individual’s overall physical fitness.
Summertime is coming and many people are drawn to exercising outdoors because the weather is beautiful. The outdoors poses some risks, but also provides many opportunities.
Be sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather, ensure your shoes are appropriate for the terrain you will be navigating and make sure you have hydration, especially if you are planning an extensive hike. Hydrate before and during your hike or walk/run.
If you are an experienced exerciser, you may know many of these things, but if you are just getting started or if you are 40 or older, here are ways to ensure that you do not injure yourself when starting an exercise program or ramping up an established routine:
- Start slowly. According to the AARP, “one sure way to hurt yourself is to do too much too soon.”
- Make sure that squats are included into your program. The squat strengthens the lower back and legs, two areas of frequent injury. Do up to 20 times. But, remember, start slow. Pain should always be a guide for you when exercising and you should avoid exercising when injured.
- Develop The Core. Strengthening the core is the basis for strengthening the rest of your body. The plank is a good exercise to strengthen the core.
- Keep Your Balance. Standing like a flamingo is a good balance exercise, according to AARP’s publication, “How to Stay Active Forever.” Balance is vital to our safety as we age. Falls are particularly hard on aging bodies and many injuries can be avoided if an individual practices balance. Simply stand on one leg for 20 seconds, then reverse legs, do another 20 seconds, repeat 20 times.
- Strong Achilles Vital. Ensure your Achilles Tendon is strong. “Achilles tendon injuries are common among older runners,” according to the AARP. Stretching the Achilles tendon on a regular basis is a must, especially for runners. One exercise is to stand facing the wall, extend one leg behind you, hold for 30 seconds, then bend the extended leg and hold that for 30 seconds, repeat with other leg.
Staying injury-free as we age is vital to our ability to stay healthy. Injury becomes more common as we age because our bodies changes as we age and have less natural protection against injury. Even those who have exercised throughout their lifespan are often surprised when something they have done for years results in an injury at age 42.
It is not a forgone happenstance, but injuries of all types become more likely after your 30s and 40s. At this age, form becomes significantly more important. For those already physically fit, just take more care and understand the need to change it up and be more careful as you age. For those just beginning the physical fitness journey, visit your doctor. Start small and go for it!
Ramona Fortanbary is a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer and editor. Ramona has served as a writer in many industries. She has been a newspaper editor, corporate communications manager and public affairs specialist and senior writer-editor for the U.S. government. Ramona has studied at Chapman and Harvard universities. Her interests include fitness, reading, traveling and volunteer work. Ramona currently serves on the board of Heart Marks Art Therapy, a 501(c)(3) organization offering free art therapy sessions to at risk segments of our society.
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