June is national Safety Month. Injuries of all types are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages – and they are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44. However, many injuries can be prevented when people practice safe behaviors. For those of us over 50 who want to continue with a vibrant and active lifestyle, taking care to stay injury free is a priority.
Before starting any exercise program, answer the following questions for exercise safety:
- Have you checked with your Dr.? Especially if it has been some time since you have exercised regularly or if you have since had some health issues, this is important.
- Are you more than 20 pounds overweight?
- Are you currently on any medication that needs to be considered along with an exercise program?
- Do you have any chest pain while engaged in physical activity?
- Is balance or dizziness an issue while being more physical?
- How are your joints? Especially your knees, hips, or back?
- Do you have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis?
- Do you smoke?
If you answer yes to any of the above questions, check in with your doctor so she can work with you on a program that keeps any health factors in mind.
Once you do get clearance from your Dr. and if it has been a while since you have had any regular activity, remember to start slow. Jumping in with a challenging workout can start you off with terrible stiffness and even injure yourself. Work up to more challenges gradually.
Set a regular exercise schedule so that it becomes a habit. When your body becomes accustomed to being challenged on a regular basis each week, you are less likely to have injuries, your balance and strength will improve, and you will be able to step up to more challenges.
Pay attention to your body and learn to “hear” its cues. If you feel sharp pain or feel just plain lousy, you could be injured or coming down with a virus. Dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, red/swollen joints; all are reasons to back off and schedule an appointment with your Dr.
Ready to start? Remember to warm up and do some gentle stretching , especially before starting cardio. Understand the difference between Dynamic and Static Stretching. Static stretching can actually tear or pull muscles, so some easy walking before stretching is helpful.
Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal, but stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If you feel pain, stop at once and consult your health care provider.
Never bounce into a stretch — make slow, steady movements to help your muscles stretch naturally.
Here is a good video on some basic stretches.
If you have joint issues, keep low impact workouts in mind. Low impact options include Yoga, cycling, Tai Chi, gardening, walking, swimming, and weight training.