While gym safety took on a whole new meaning during the pandemic, if you want to get back to a fitness regimen this summer, consider the more pedestrian hazards with treadmills and bench presses – especially if you’re over 50.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, exercise-related visits to the emergency room exceeded 107,000 for those aged 50 and over in 2020 – and that number is slightly lower than usual as fewer people exercised during the pandemic. Speaking of treadmills: this device alone treats around 20,000 people in emergency rooms in the United States each year.
“Getting exercise wrong can be worse than doing nothing,” says Jeremy James, a chiropractor and creator of a home fitness program designed for older adults or those with pre-existing injuries.
The good news? Staying safe and getting the numerous health benefits of exercising (including avoiding injuries from falls after 50 by building leg muscles and improving balance) isn’t difficult. All you need to do is keep your focus and follow a few key tips. Here’s your first: wear this red safety clip when you’re on the treadmill to stop the belt if you start to slip or trip.
Here are other smart ways to avoid common mistakes that can lead to injury.
1. Just put in
It’s good to be excited while exercising, but don’t let that motivation push you too fast and too far. “Often times, people jump right into workouts that aren’t intended for beginners and they haven’t developed the muscles, especially core strength,” to do so in proper form, says James. This is especially risky in weight training, which can result in injuries like rotator cuff ruptures and lower back strain if one is sloppy with the right form to get a certain number of reps.
James’ advice: “Use only the resistance or weight and number of repetitions you can do in perfect form. The last two to three repetitions should be challenging, but not so challenging that you have to break your form. “
2. Stop skipping your warm-up
Stretching (the type that you mostly stand still and flex a calf or hamstring) can be done anytime during or after your workout, but there is no evidence that it helps prevent injury. What should you do instead? A warm up.
As opposed to stretching, the warm up involves movements that are similar to your workout but are performed more slowly. “The purpose of a warm-up is to increase blood flow to muscles, improve tissue elasticity, and stimulate the nervous system,” said Lauren Shroyer, certified trainer and senior director of product development for the American Council on Exercise. “Imagine that you are slowly accelerating your training. Warming up is important to avoid injuries, especially as we get older and our soft tissues become less elastic. “
That doesn’t mean you can forego stretching altogether. Just save it for after you warm up (when the fabric is warm) or at the end of your session. Stretching can reduce the build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue, which contributes to persistent aches and pains. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching each muscle group for at least 60 seconds.
3. Invest in the right shoes
“There is no shoe that can prevent injuries, but there are definitely many that can cause injuries to the wrong person,” says Matthew Klein, orthopedic specialist and founder of Doctors of Running. Shoes that are too tight in the front (called the toe box) can keep your feet in positions that can predispose you to a bunion, and as you age, so too does the risk of soft tissue injuries affecting areas like the calf and Achilles tendon, he adds .
In general, Klein says you should look for a shoe that is designed for whatever activity you plan on the most. Basketball shoes, for example, are designed to move sideways, while running shoes are usually not. Buy from a specialty store that has staff trained to advise you (REI is one of the few major retailers to do this, says Klein). Because your feet swell during the day, go to the shoe store in the afternoon or evening to find the best fit; You should be half a thumb to a full thumb width between the end of the toe and the end of the shoe, he notes.