“Exercise is really important as you get older,” says Tom Iannetta ATC, CSCS, a senior athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist. “But you might have to adjust your routine to avoid injuries as you age.”As you get older, muscles and tendons get tighter,” he says. “Injuries like tendon tears become a lot more common in middle age. It’s important to know your limits and listen to your body.”
- Warm up: “It’s important to warm up your muscles before strength training,” Iannetta says. “Five or 10 minutes on the elliptical machine or stationary bike gives you a good light warmup before lifting weights.”
- Get stretchy: “Incorporate a good flexibility program alongside your strength training program,” he says. Whether it’s yoga or a simple stretching routine, it will help you stay flexible and decrease the risk of tendon tears and other injuries.
- Try machines: If you’re used to lifting free weights, consider switching to weight machines. These can be safer and help you avoid injuries when aging brings on a loss of muscle tone.
- Consider your sport: Iannetta says he sees a lot of injuries from high-intensity interval training among people in their 40s and 50s. If you’re not as limber as you used to be, you might want to skip the intervals and schedule a round of racquetball or hit the bike instead. No shame in that game.
- Listen to your body: That’s true at any age, but especially as you get older. If you have muscle pain that lasts the better part of a week, or joint pain that lasts more than a day or two, that’s a red flag. “If it hurts, stop exercising and get it checked out,” he says. “And while it’s normal to get winded during a workout, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t catch your breath.”
- Before starting a new exercise program, talk to your doctor, Iannetta says. They can give you advice about what is and isn’t safe. That’s especially true if you’re taking medications or have any chronic conditions such as lung disease or heart problems.
- As you get started, it’s worth seeking help from the experts, he adds. “Look for a certified strength and conditioning specialist or a certified personal trainer,” he says. “They can help you find enjoyable ways to exercise safely.”