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Top 10 Tips to Easily Prevent Exercise Injuries Among Older Adults

Have you ever had an exercise injury?

If you have, then I’m sure it has been a pain to recover from.

It is not only the physical pain that hurts but also the mental stress of being injured and feeling as if your exercise routine is on hold for a while.

As we age, our bodies change and we become more susceptible to exercise injuries.

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to prevent these injuries before they happen.

By following these 10 tips, you can help prevent those injuries and stay healthy and active well into your golden years.

What is an Exercise Injury?

exercise injuries

An injury while exercising is known as an exercise injury.

It’s different from an exercise-related injury, which happens when something in the environment impacts your body while you’re exercising.

These injuries can happen to anyone who exercises, not just older adults.

The good news is that exercise injury are usually not serious and most people recover completely or with minimal treatment.

However, they can still cause a lot of pain and discomfort for days or weeks after the incident.

If you want to avoid exercise injuries that could keep you off the road or out of the gym until they heal completely, then read on for ten tips to help prevent them!

What Are My Top Tips to Prevent Exercise Injuries for Older Adults?

Here are my top 10 tips for preventing exercise injuries for older adults:

Schedule exercise.

exercise schedule

First and foremost, exercise needs to be a priority.  

If you exercise regularly, then you will be less likely to sustain exercise injuries because your muscles and bones will remain in good shape and in good health.

Exercise also helps prevent functional decline associated with age; when we exercise our joints move better and the movement keeps our joints from deteriorating.

Always warm-up before exercising.

warming up before exercising

A good warm-up will increase blood flow to cold muscles and prepare them for exercise.

10-minute warm-up sessions are long enough to get the blood flowing into your muscles but short enough that they don’t take up too much time or become too tiring.

Start slowly, then work up to harder exercise.

When you exercise, make sure to work up slowly in your intensity.

New exercise can be strenuous and your body needs time to adjust to the increased demand before you push it harder.

Stretch after warming up, but don’t overdo it.

stretching exercise

Stretching too much can actually lead to injury.

Stretching is a great way to exercise your muscles and increase your flexibility, but it can also lead to muscle tears.

So make sure you don’t overdo it on the stretching.

Doing 20-30 seconds of a stretch exercise per body part is long enough to improve your flexibility and reduce your chances of exercise injury.

For older adults, static stretching is preferable to dynamic (or ballistic) stretching.

An alternative is to use foam rollers to stretch and warm your muscles.

Remember, your muscles and joints are not as flexible or loose as when you were in your twenties; aggressive stretching can lead to soft tissue injuries.

Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the type of exercise you’re doing.

exercise gear

When you’re getting ready to exercise, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not you’re wearing the right clothes.

But if you don’t have the proper attire, you could be putting yourself at risk for exercise-related injuries.

Older adults should be wary about exercise injuries that can happen if they do not wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the type of exercise they’re doing.

For instance, runners should dress in running shoes so as to avoid any foot or leg injury.

Bikers should wear a helmet and ensure their bike is in good working order before getting on them.

Swimmers should use swim goggles to avoid eye irritation from chlorinated water.

And weight lifters might want to invest in wrist wraps that help protect wrists during heavy lifting sessions.

In other words, don’t wear running shoes to play tennis and don’t wear tennis shoes to a bowling match.

These suggestions may seem obvious, but we seldom consider the clothing and equipment we’ll require until we’re already ready to go!

Drink plenty of water during exercise.

drinking water while exercising

To keep your body hydrated and prevent injury from overexertion, make sure you are well-hydrated.

Drink plenty of water before exercise and continue drinking fluids during exercise to stay hydrated and reduce your risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

We lose electrolytes when we sweat during exercise.

Electrolytes are essential minerals – like sodium, calcium, and potassium – that are vital to many key functions in the body.

If you’re doing an easy-to-moderate exercise for an hour or less, drinking water instead of a sugary sports drink is sufficient.

Get an okay from your doctor.

getting an okay from your doctor

If you have had a previous exercise-related injury, get the okay from your physician before starting any new exercise program or increasing the intensity of your exercise program.

If you have been sedentary for a while, consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

If you know that your exercise-related injury is due to a previous exercise program and you want to start exercising again, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Learn proper exercise form and technique.

good exercise form and technique

Doing an exercise incorrectly can lead to injury – especially for older adults.

Before starting any exercise program, get instruction from a physical therapist or a qualified fitness instructor on how to perform the exercise in proper form.

As you exercise, be mindful of maintaining the correct form and proper alignment throughout each exercise.

A lot of exercise injuries result from improper form, repetitive twisting motions, overstressed muscles, or overuse injuries.

Follow the guidelines for frequency, intensity, and duration outlined by your physician or physical therapy program.

Don’t exercise on very hard surfaces.

exercising on a hard surface

When it comes to exercise, many people think that the harder the surface, the better.

After all, if you’re working up a sweat, you must be getting a good workout, right?

Wrong.

In fact, exercising on a very hard surface can actually lead to exercise injuries.

Softer surfaces provide more cushion and reduce the risk of exercise injuries.

If you exercise on a very hard surface, your joints will be affected with unnecessary impact and could give out or hasten the wear and tear of the joint surfaces.

Go slowly, especially at first.

slow exercises

As with any exercise program, it is best to start slow and gradually increase your exercise routine over time.  

This will give your body time to get used to new movement patterns and avoid exercise injuries.

You might start with a few minutes in the beginning and gradually increase your exercise time.  

For older adults, exercise in short five to ten-minute intervals is a good starting point.

This will allow you to exercise before you feel tired, before exercise injuries could set in, or before the pain from arthritic joints can become overwhelming.

Your physical therapist can provide an exercise plan that is right for you and ease you into it at a slow enough pace to prevent injury from occurring.

If you feel pain during exercise, stop.

pain during exercise

Some amount of discomfort during exercise is expected, especially if your body is adjusting to new movement patterns or a higher level of activity.

But exercise pain is not the same as exercise discomfort, and exercise injury is not the same as exercise pain.

If you feel exercise pain during an activity, stop immediately.

Pain during exercise is different.

It’s important to pay attention to signals your body sends about exercise discomfort and exercise pain.

Acute pain is our body’s way of communicating to our brain that there is a real or perceived threat to the body.

Listen to your body.

Summary

By following these tips and strategies to prevent exercise injuries among older adults, you can exercise regularly without the risk of exercise-related injuries.

In this article, you learned about exercise injuries and how to prevent them from happening:

  • Schedule exercise.
  • Always warm-up before exercising.
  • Stretch after warming up, but don’t overdo it.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the type of exercise you’re doing.
  • Drink plenty of water during exercise.
  • Get an okay from your doctor.
  • Learn proper exercise form and technique. 
  • Don’t exercise on very hard surfaces.
  • Go slowly, especially at first.
  • If you feel pain during exercise, stop. 

Older adults often experience exercise injuries because they are less active and have a weaker musculoskeletal system than when they were younger adults.  

However, with these tips you learned from this post, have no fear – stay active and stay healthy through your golden years!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do injuries happen frequently for people who do not exercise?

People who don’t exercise are more likely to injure themselves than those who do because they’re not used to the strain that exercise puts on the body.

Additionally, when you don’t exercise regularly, your overall fitness level will be much lower than someone who does exercise regularly.

This means that when you do finally decide to start working out, your body won’t be physically prepared for the challenge and is more likely to get injured.

That is why the tips and strategies I outlined in this article can assist you in gradually resuming back to an exercise routine.

What are some exercise injuries that can happen to older adults?

Some exercise injuries that older adults might experience include:

  • muscle strain
  • rotator cuff or other shoulder injuries
  • knee pain
  • elbow pain
  • muscle pull
  • sprained ankle
  • overuse injuries of muscles or bones, sprains, arthritis flare-ups, and tendonitis.  

These exercise injuries are not only painful but also preventable with the right exercise routine tailored for your specific needs.  

What exercises cause the most injuries?

More than one-quarter of sports- and recreation-related injury episodes (27.9%) resulted from falls. Other causes such as overexertion, being struck by or against a person or object, or transportation each accounted for 12%–17% of the injury episodes.

In this article, learn about simple yet effective fall prevention strategies.

The majority of the injury diagnoses involved strains and sprains (41.4%), fractures (20.0%), and superficial injuries and contusions.

Many of these injuries can be prevented through proper preparation, warm-ups, and cool-downs, as well as wearing the appropriate safety gear.

Dr. Lex Gonzales
Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT is an author and speaker who has been working as a licensed healthcare professional for over 24 years. On drlexgonzales.com he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to achieve the best version of your healthy self.

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