Expert in Residence
Max Barroso, PT, DPT, SCS, OSC
Dr. Max Barroso is a licensed physical therapist with a clinical specialty in sports and orthopedics. He treats athletes across the lifespan, with current practice emphasis on college-aged and adult athletes. He is a mentor and clinical instructor for Doctor of Physical Therapy students in Los Angeles, CA, where he practices and resides.
It is important to stay fit and active throughout the entire course of your life to maintain health and quality of life. Exercise across the lifespan has many benefits and it is important to practice safe exercise habits to reap their benefits and avoid injury. Research shows that low-impact exercise is one of the safest ways to build/maintain cardiovascular health, bone density, and muscle mass. In this guide, we’ll go over some of those exercises as well as safety precautions to take so that you can maintain a high quality of life.
We will start with some safety precautions to be aware of for those who like to exercise at home, then precautions for the gym, exercises that help reduce chances of injury, and then a few general tips to consider as well in your quest for a healthy, injury-free life.
Safety For Home Workouts
There are many pros and cons to exercising at home. Follow our guidelines below to be sure you don’t cause yourself any injuries while exercising in the convenience of your own home.
Safety At The Gym
There are many benefits to working out at gyms with expansive, clutter-free space, fixed-motion machines, cardio machines, saunas, and a dedicated staff present to help with any issues. However there are a few things to be aware of as well to help prevent injuries at the gym, on top of the precautions to take for home workouts.
Understand The Equipment You’re Using
There are often many different types of machines at the gym. One is a fixed motion, meaning they only move in a very specific manner. This helps to reduce chances of injury, for example if you did the bench press with free weights, you could drop the barbell on your chest, not load the weights properly so that one side comes loose and falls off, and so on. There's generally no chance of that happening with a bench press machine. However some machines workout muscles in a different manner, and you can cause yourself injury if you don’t understand what muscles that machine targets.. Sticking to fixed-motion machines would be your safest option at the gym, or low weight dumbbells to get the full range of motion that is not always possible with fixed-motion machines.
There are also many free weight workouts like TRX and elastic bands that are great to use at the gym but require a little more training to be used correctly. . Most gyms have a free introductory session with a trainer who will help you understand the machines and other pieces of exercise equipment. Do not be shy, take the session, and protect your body.
Most gyms will have amenities like saunas, steam rooms, swimming pools, and so on. They can all be useful to your health, but again, understand their pros and cons. With saunas and steam rooms, it’s important to be aware of your breathing and heart rate, as the intense heat can cause breathing and heart issues after extended periods of time. If you start to feel faint and notice your heart rate going up, then leave the sauna to sit in the locker room at a regular temperature until you feel normal again. Swimming pools are a fantastic, low impact way to workout the whole body, but again be aware of your heart rate and breathing as you don’t want to over-exert yourself, and always make sure a lifeguard is present as your body is more susceptible to cramping up or giving out.
If possible, it can be very motivating as well as very safe, to find a friend or relative to go to the gym with. You’ll be able to push each other a bit further than you could safely do alone, as well as have someone to help make sure you're maintaining proper form during your exercises. It can be difficult to always have the self awareness for maintaining proper form, and it can be easy to fall into just ‘doing the motions’ where you may be exercising, but to a bare minimum extent that is not very beneficial to your health. Having an exercise partner to keep you accountable will help you stay on track.
Injury Reducing Exercises
Perform the following exercises a few times a week to help your body better handle the stress of day to day activities. Consistently doing these exercises will go a long way to prevent injuries.
Other Tips To Reduce Chances of Injury
There is speculation that consuming protein after your workouts can help the muscles to recover more effectively, especially as we age and are not producing the same amount of hormones nor absorbing proteins as efficiently as people do in their youth that aid in muscle recovery.
Maintain Proper Form 24/7
This is useful at any age, but especially so in the latter years. Being conscious of your posture and working to keep it correct goes a long way in strengthening your body and lower chances of injury. This is especially so when sitting at desks, in the car, and so on. Engaging the core muscles as much as possible will go a long way in maintaining or improving your quality of life. As described above, keeping proper form during your exercises is of utmost importance, as this is when you’re extending the body in ways that stress the various muscles and joints. If proper form is not maintained, then the risk of injury increases greatly.
Give Special Attention to Your Feet
Your feet bear all of your weight when you’re moving, and there is a lot going on down there to sustain your weight for all your life. You’ll want to be sure you keeps your foot and ankle pliable and warmed up before exercises with some light movements and stretching to prepare for your exercise regime. You can also help massage your feet whenever you’re at home by rubbing your foot over a tennis or golf ball or two, pressing into the golf ball enough to help massage and relieve tensions in the various parts of the foot.
Here are some additional resources to go through to better understand how your body ages and how to take care of it, as well as illustrations and videos of the exercises you can do to help prevent injuries.
AARP - The AARP has fantastic resources for seniors to improve and maintain their health. Find nutritional tips, exercise videos, and mental wellness articles here. You’ll be sure to help reduce injuries by following their advice!
Senior Exercises - Here, you find a great outline on what happens to our muscles as we age, more safety precautions to be aware of to minimize risk, and lists of exercises to do.
Medical Conditions Precautions - Here you will find information on the various ailments that are common amongst seniors. This article will go over what to look out for, when to stop, and what can help certain health issues.
Illustrated Injury Prevention Exercises - This guide has injury preventive exercises with illustrations to help you better understand the range of motion you should be doing. Refer to the illustrations for the starting and finishing positions of each exercise.
Prevention of Falls for Older Adults - This guide by the government was made for one of the highest causes of deaths amongst older adults, unintentional falls. You’ll find great prevention tips and ways to modify your home, useful for those who workout at home.