Safe Exercise Tips for People Over Age 50

Baby Boomer Exercise Safety Tips

Three women walking
Three midlife women walking with walking poles. Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

Exercise is essential for people over age 50 to reduce health risks and stay fit, but the risk of injury goes up.

You may be avoiding the gym because you are afraid of injuring yourself. Or you may be attempting to keep up with your 20-year old self and still not taking the precautions you ignored back then.

Joints, tendons and muscles are at greater risk than they were in your earlier adult years. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers tips to help stay injury-free and enjoy the exercise you need for health.

Tips to Prevent Exercise Injury Over Age 50

  • Talk to Your Health Care Provider: Ask your doctor, PA or nurse practitioner whether your heart is in good condition and what level of exercise would be best. If you have a previous injury or chronic condition, this consultation is even more important. Exercise is often the right prescription for maintaining health. Your doctor can steer you to the right kind of exercise for your specific fitness level.
    Why You Should Get a Medical Check-up
  • Warm Up: Ease into exercise rather than leaping (perhaps literally) into vigorous or strenuous activity from rest. Warm up for three to five minutes with light exercise such as walking. The AAOS says that cold muscles are more likely to get injured.
    Why You Need a Warm-Up
  • Gear Up: Are you wearing athletic shoes geared to the workout you're doing, or are you wearing crosstraining shoes for everything? Wear the right gear for the sport or activity, including protective equipment such as helmets whenever cycling or skiing.
  • Don't be a Weekend Warrior: Too many people put off exercise until the weekend and then do too much. But exercise recommendations by health authorities say 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, five or more days per week is associated with reducing health risks. It can also help reduce injuries seen in those who play hard on the weekend only.
  • Use a Trainer or Take Lessons: Using the right form, frequency, and intensity for exercise can improve your results and help prevent overuse injuries. Using a trainer or instructor can ensure you are doing it right.
    Why Use a Trainer?
  • Cardio, Strength, and Flexibility: Balancing your exercise program means that you do each of these three types of exercise. Cardio exercise includes running, walking, biking, swimming, rowing, etc. Choose the one you enjoy the most for moderate intensity cardio three or more times a week. Strength training includes working out with weights, exercise bands, and other devices to build and maintain muscle. Flexibility includes stretching and yoga.
    Exercise Recommendations: Cardio, Strength, and Flexibility
  • Listen to Your Body: Your body signals you with pain and fatigue that it is approaching the danger zone for injury. You may have to silence your ego that is wondering why you can do as much at 55 as you did at 25. Pay attention and modify your workout so you are getting the exercise you need without risking injury.
    Pay Attention to Muscle Pain and Soreness
  • Rest: Regular days off from exercise gives your body the chance to build and repair muscle and bone. A rest day after an intense workout day can help restore you.

    Get Started: Exercise Basics for Older Adults


    American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Press release Aug. 8, 2008.

    American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Press release Oct. 29, 2013.

    Sports Injury Prevention for Baby Boomers, AAOS, accessed August 2, 2015

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