How to avoid injuries tips for seniors over 50, 60, 70

Find out in this article how older adults can avoid exercise injuries with a few simple precautions.

Imagine you are above 60 and go to a gym. There you see a young adult in excellent shape – jumping, lifting, working out strenuously with heavyweights, and not breathing hard at all. You guess he is 20, 1/3rd of your age. You watch him with awe and wish you could do the same.

This typical scenario happened to me also when I started working out in a gym at the age of 64. I had a knee injury, pulled my muscles a few times, and had a back injury. As a result, I learned many lessons the hard way.

I am going to share here the lessons learned from my mistakes & what ISSA taught me during my “Personal Fitness Certification” and “Specialist Exercise Therapy” courses.

Are injuries from strength exercises avoidable in old age?

My experience says yes. You can avoid injuries once you understand what not to do before you workout.

Check with your doctor if you are starting a new fitness program for the first time or after a long gap. Then, follow these tips to prevent injuries once your doctor gives you a green signal.

Watch Your Back & Shoulders

Your back & shoulders are the areas that are most prone to injuries, but for different reasons.

(i) Lower back injuries: They generally occur due to a lack of strength in the muscles of the hips and pelvis. An older adult might be tempted to do a “leg press exercise” to strengthen the glutes. But the leg press only involves one function of the glute muscles, namely, straightening of the hips when bent. But the glutes are also responsible for pulling your legs sideways away from your body by outwardly rotating your thigh bone. The best exercise for these two movements is the side step with a miniband.

Put the loop resistance band just above your knees around the thighs. Take long steps sideways, making sure to perform the same number of steps in each direction. Do the walking with the band for a minute or two twice a day.

Watch this video to see how “Mini Band Side Steps” exercise is done

(ii) Shoulder injuries: They are most likely to occur because of the presence of two problems together – having a poor range of motion when you try to reach overhead along with not enough strength in your rotator cuff muscles. The former pushes your arms into an unnatural movement pattern, and the latter means the muscles and connective tissues aren’t strong enough to compensate and hold the joint together.

How To Check Whether You Have Enough Mobility For Overhead Exercises?

Here’s a simple method to determine if you have adequate mobility for overhead exercises. First, stand in front of a mirror. Now extend your arms straight above your head, like a referee signaling a touchdown in a football game. You should be able to raise them straight up without bending backward. Now turn sideways, and look into the mirror again. Your arms should be parallel to your neck, torso, and legs, and from the side, they should block your ears. If you can attain this position without pain, you are good to lift overhead. If you can’t achieve this, you need to work on your mobility with the help of a physical therapist or a good fitness trainer.

Now we come to the next set of steps for preventing injuries from Strength Training:

Here’s the right way to gain strength in old age without injuring you:

Once you reestablish your range of motion, you need to maintain and improve on it, preferably using dumbbells. Many older adults are afraid of using free weights, but there’s no substitute. Dumbbells allow for natural functional movements of the joints and improve the strength of the stabilizing muscles.

Note: These are the first actions to prevent avoidable injuries. Opt for equipment that allows your joints to have a full, pain-free range of motion. Resistance bands, dumbbells, and cable machines are considered better choices for your joints than a barbell and weight machines that compel your movements to follow a trajectory that may not be well suited to your body.

The next step is, to begin with, lightweights and progress to more challenging ones as your muscles and joints gain strength.

Make sure your movements are slow, and the targeted muscles are engaged. Ensure that you don’t feel discomfort in any area that is not supposed to be involved while doing the exercise.

Perform as many repetitions as possible using good form and the correct posture. Stop the reps when your posture slips and you feel your form changes – for instance, you tend to lean backward to complete shoulder press or rock forward and back while doing a row or a biceps curl.

Avoid setting a target number of reps for each set. As soon as you feel the quality of a rep dwindles, the risk of injury increases.

Don’t get tempted to break any of the above rules when you see someone younger than you violating any of the above rules. Instead, just smile, and wish him good luck.

About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Fitness Buffhq - Renu bakshiPersonal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, the USA, obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”

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