Tips to help baby boomers exercise without injury

Sure, you remember the way you could stretch a single into a double, smash an unstoppable serve over the net or fast-break for an easy two points.

But let's face it, you also can remember televisions without remotes, rotary phones and gasoline lines. Push your body to the lengths it used to go, and you'll have as much success as you would getting your car to run on leaded gas.

The youngest baby boomers are turning 43 this year, and like it or not their bodies are showing the signs of age. But you're not relegated to a rocker. These tips can help you keep exercising without injury.

The rule of 10. People often try to do too much too fast. “Follow the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' 10 percent rule,” says Christopher Siodlarz, M.D., a physiatrist on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. “Increase your activity by no more than 10 percent a week. That applies to strength training as well as aerobic exercise.”

Where's your weight? If you're like most boomers, you have 20 or 30 pounds on your frame that weren't there when you were younger. “Extra pounds put an extra strain on your joints and body,” says David Bragg, M.D., a family practice physician on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland. Decrease the weight as you increase your fitness level to help prevent injury.

The '70s are so yesterday. Do what you can do now, not what you could do then. Dr. Bragg, now 50, used to play competitive tennis. “In my mind I'm still good,” he says. “Out on the court, I tell myself to take it easy.”

Get with the program. Doctors see boomers who haven't done anything for months go out and play softball or tennis at 100 percent. It's better to get in shape with a consistent exercise routine before sprinting to first.

Listen to your body. Dr. Bragg once ignored a warning twinge in his ankle, and 30 minutes later he was debilitated by an Achilles tendon rupture that left him in a cast and on crutches for three months and recovering for a year. If something doesn't feel right, ease up and see your primary care physician or a physiatrist, who may order tests and then prescribe physical therapy for a pulled muscle or to strengthen weakened areas of the body.

Give up the cigarettes. Smoking is a risk factor in injuries such as rotator cuff tears, says Marcus Roux, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie. Additionally, smoking can hinder healing. Accidents happen. Dr. Roux says he sees boomers with meniscus tears, ligament injuries and rotator cuff tears. “These injuries are mostly accident-related, whether it's stepping off a step wrong in aerobics class or stepping off a curb wrong,” he says.

With a good strength training program, aerobic exercise, flexibility regimen, and a healthy body weight, you'll be best able to recover if the unexpected happens to you.

For more information about Baylor Health Care System, visit http://www.BaylorHealth.com

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