Even the most youthful and dedicated athletes are not immune to exercise-related injuries. But any expert will quickly point out that the risks of not engaging in regular physical activity are far more dangerous to your health than doing nothing.
Proper technique, form and training all are keys to maximizing workout benefits and avoiding a pulled muscle, sprain or worse. As we age, education about our changing bodies also is critical to getting optimum benefits.
Here’s what experts say about mindfully navigating your way through the decades.
In Your 40s
“It’s easy at this age to feel like you should be able to do all of the things that your body was able to do in your 20s and 30s,” says Samantha Merchant, exercise physiologist and personal trainer at The Works Fitness Center in New Hampshire.
It’s an assumption that equals potential injury. Now more than ever, what you do before a workout has everything to do with your overall success.
“Warm up properly,” Merchant says. “This is especially important before high-intensity or high-impact routines like boot camps.”
An effective warm-up will:
- Increase heart rate and core body temperature;
- Prepare your body to handle quick decelerating movements;
- Increase muscle length, and;
- Activate your core.
A typical workout should last about an hour, says Caley Whitney, certified personal trainer. Select a variety of exercises, including:
- Relaxation, and;
- Whole-body stretching.
“Each component of fitness does not need to be addressed every day,” Whitney says. “But some sort of workout should be done most days of the week.”
In Your 50s
By the time you are 50, you definitely will notice it takes fewer calories to maintain your body weight. Like it or not, that’s normal.
“Basal metabolic rate, or the minimum amount of energy your body must expend per day to keep all vital processes functioning properly, decreases with age,” says Kyle Coffey, a physical therapist and professor at UMass Lowell outside of Boston.
The good news is, “Regular activity is known to raise the resting metabolic rate,” Coffey says.
A few more perks of regular exercise in your 50s and beyond?
- Better self-esteem;
- Lower blood pressure;
- Increased bone density, and;
- Improved cholesterol.
In Your 60s
Recovery from workouts gets more difficult as we age. Suddenly, the body will not be able to “bounce back” like it used to, Merchant says.
“Avoid back-to-back days,” she advises. “This will allow the muscles and the joints to recover appropriately and limit the aches and pains you may feel from repeated bouts of impact.”
More best practices?
- Add foam rolling, which improves posture, increases flexibility and reduces tension while boosting athletic performance;
- Don’t work out through pain, and;
- Consider focusing on increasingly moderate-level fitness activities to prevent injury.
In Your 70s and Beyond:
Older adults are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease, as well as disabilities caused by injuries from falling.
Get an annual health-risk assessment and tweak your workout routine. You’ll also get information on proper movement, nutrition and stress management skills.
Some best practices?
- Swimming and other water exercises for cardiovascular training without putting pressure on joints;
- Yoga classes to combat decreased range of motion and increase mindfulness, and;
- Balancing exercises to reduce risk of falls.
“I have a client who just started working out at age 82. Her endurance has improved, and daily tasks have become easier,” Whitney says. “We work at her pace and stop when she says she is done.”