Exercising tips, injury prevention for the elderly

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, August 20, 2015

By David Crocker

Today, more and more seniors are participating in sports related activities. That’s great! I’ve witnessed some true physical transformations in those who didn’t even begin exercising until their late 70s. However, some reports indicate sports related injuries experienced by the elderly have increased by as much as 29 percent. But don’t fret, most injuries can be prevented by using a few simple precautions.

We need to realize 50-year-old muscles and joints don’t often behave like those that are 20. As we age, we start to lose bone mass and density (especially in post-menopausal women), because our bodies lose calcium and other minerals. Cartilage and other connective tissues thin as well. This can lead to conditions like tendonitis, osteoporosis, bursitis, and arthritis, but hope is not lost.

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Proper supplementation and exercise can absolutely help. In addition to taking a good vitamin/mineral (Provide and Source of Life are great) supplement, I recommend taking 1,200-1,500 mg calcium a day. If your calcium source is calcium carbonate, take with food. If the calcium source you choose is calcium citrate, take on an empty stomach. Choose one or the other, not both. For those of you who take coral calcium; its form is calcium carbonate.

I also recommend 400-800 IU of vitamin D, daily. Be sure to check with your doctor, as calcium supplements can sometimes interfere with absorption of certain medications, and your doctor may need to check for acceptable blood levels of vitamin D.

Exercise, particularly resistance (weight lifting) exercise, strengthens muscles as well as bones and connective tissues. I’ve had clients who’d never really exercised, dramatically improve their bone density and health through exercising.

Here are a few tips for keeping safe, while getting fit.

1. Warm up and stretch. When you stretch before working out, it’s not muscle you’re stretching, but rather tendons. Tendons hold muscles to bones, much like hinges hold a door to a wall. Tendons are much like leather in two ways. First, the more supple they are, the stronger they hold the joint, and much like leather, tendons can’t be conditioned in just one sitting, but need to be stretched and conditioned over and over again. Warming your body up before exercise serves several purposes. As muscles are warmed, blood vessels dilate, which lowers stress on the heart. As blood is warmed through muscles, the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin is weakened, thereby releasing more available oxygen to nourish the body. Warming up before exercise also improves muscle elasticity, which helps establish better balance.

2. Vary your exercise intensity. It matters not your age; no one should exercise every day. You don’t become stronger, lose weight, or become more fit while you are exercising, but rather, hours later while you rest. Exercise is the catalyst, but rest is the glue that holds your exercise program together. I teach folks of all ages and fitness levels there are three components necessary to becoming healthy and fit, and that they are like three equal slices of a pie. These fundamental parts are nutrition, exercise and rest, and if the exercise piece is too big, it makes the rest of the pieces too small, and that can cause your program to be ineffective.

3. Get proper exercise instruction. Again, at any age, when starting or changing an exercise routine, seek guidance from a trainer who is qualified and experienced. You’ll save yourself much grief. Make sure your trainer has worked with individuals your age. Be leery of trainers who implement the same routine for everyone. Every individual is unique, with different needs, so no two individuals should have the same exercise program.

4. Pay attention to those aches. Some muscle soreness is usually common, but pain experienced in a muscle or especially a joint should receive immediate consideration. Consult your doctor.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at dwcrocker77@gmail.co or visit fitness4yourlife.org. David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 27 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team, and the Converse college equestrian team. He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.