It’s a fact that our bodies change with age. Some of these changes can make us feel like slowing down and stepping away from exercise routines. But, it’s more important than ever to stay in the game and keep moving – even when you feel like doing less. Current studies show that exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s, increase life expectancy, and even change DNA, helping the muscles to work more efficiently. Routine exercise really does improve muscle and joint function, keeps bones strong, and significantly decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Of course, it’s important to factor in the aging body and be smarter about how we exercise. Older bodies simply don’t bounce back from injury as quickly. There are some simple steps that, undertaken just a few times a week, will reduce the risk of getting hurt and in so doing – slow down the aging process by helping you to stay physically active.

Here are some tips developed by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) that can help you exercise safely.

Take time to Warm Up

It’s very important to take time to warm up and stretch before physical activity because inactive muscles are more prone to injury. Some easy ways to warm up might include; jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the muscles are warmed up, follow your warm-up with slow and gentle stretching, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

And then, Cool Down

Just like warming up, it is important to cool down. Gentle stretching after physical activity helps to prepare your body for the next time you exercise, and it makes recovery from exercise that much easier.

Be Consistent – stick to your routine

AAOS recommends watching out for the “weekend warrior” syndrome. Compressing exercise into 2 days sets us up for trouble and does not increase fitness level. Getting 20-30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day – even if you need to do that is segments of 10-15 minutes – will help to increase endurance and build strength.

Physical activity doesn’t need to be an athletic feat – walking the dog, working in the garden, playing with the kids and taking the stairs instead of an elevator are all good options for increasing physical activity.

Be Prepared

Consider taking up a new sport. Whether you are a beginner or have been playing a sport for a long time, lessons can be a worthwhile investment. Working with a fitness instructor can help to reduce the chance of developing an overuse injury like tendinitis or a stress fracture – while giving you fun new ways to workout.

Think about your feet

Properly fitting shoes that are appropriate for the activity will help to keep feet healthy and pain free. 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 our bodies age, flexibility can become a challenge and activities need to be adjusted to prevent injury. It’s important to modify your activity to accommodate your body’s changing requirements.

Use the Ten Percent Rule

When changing your activity level, increase it in increments of no more than 10% per week. If you normally walk 2 miles a day and want to increase your fitness level, do not try to suddenly walk 4 miles. Slowly build up to more miles each week until you reach your higher goal. When strength training, use the 10% rule as your guide and increase your weights gradually.

Balanced Fitness is Best

A fitness routine that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility is by far the best fitness program you can follow. In addition to providing a total body workout, a balanced program is more invigorating and helps to reduce the likelihood of injury.

When to seek guidance from your orthopaedic specialist

If you have or have had a sports or orthopaedic injury like tendinitis, arthritis, a stress fracture, or low back pain, consult an orthopaedic surgeon who can help design a fitness routine to promote wellness and minimize the chance of injury.

SRO is recognized as a leader in patient care, surgical and non-surgical treatments, physical and occupational therapy and patient education – allowing you to benefit from the most up-to-date treatment and therapies available. We focus on helping patients avoid surgery and utilize regenerative medicine and non-surgical techniques whenever possible. We also implement an evidence-based approach to the care and treatment of all of our patients.