Staying Active at Any Age

Staying active as you age helps you remain healthy, live longer and feel better.

Senior couple playing tennisMore older people than ever before are involved in exercise and sports. They've learned that being physically fit doesn't have to mean aching muscles from workouts and hard-to-maintain exercise schedules. Many people are getting their exercise in active pastimes such as biking, skiing and tennis. Others prefer less active recreation such as walking, gardening or golf.

All are finding relaxation and fun while they secure a healthy future. Exercise helps you feel better because it improves your health. Orthopaedic surgeons say that by spending a little time each day in some type of physical activity, you can enjoy these significant benefits:

  • longer, healthier life
  • stronger bones
  • reduced joint and muscle pain
  • improved mobility and balance
  • lower risk of falls and serious injuries like hip fractures
  • slower loss of muscle mass

People are living longer these days and their quality of life depends on being healthy and remaining independent. Staying active can lower your risk for many common diseases, relieve the pain of arthritis and help you to recover faster when you do get sick.

Stay active and safe

While it's important to stay active, it's also important to play it safe. As more older people engage in physical activities, sports-related injuries are increasing. This is especially true for those who ride bicycles, ski, lift weights and use exercise machines.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 53,000 people ages 65 and older were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries in 1996. That's a 54 percent increase in these injuries from 1990. Additional injuries were treated in physicians' offices.

chart table estimated injuries to people 65 and older selected groups by sports by year

The increase in injuries is probably due to more older people engaging in active sports. Fortunately, most of these injuries were not severe and could be prevented.

For example, in the CPSC study, very few of the older bikers treated in emergency rooms for head injuries were wearing bike helmets. However, wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of serious head injury by up to 85 percent. That's a small precaution for a big payoff.

By getting regular exercise-and doing it safely-you can enjoy a healthier life.

Your activity log

A balanced program of moderate physical activity for 30 minutes a day is beneficial even for people with chronic conditions of bones and joints. The 30 minutes can be broken up into shorter periods such as 15 minutes of gardening in the morning and 15 minutes of brisk walking in the afternoon. Here's a sample activity log that you can use to keep track of the minutes you spend on physical activity.activity chart blank monday thru sunday brisk walking gardening exercise stretching swimming sports

Seven tips to prevent injury

When you exercise, orthopaedic surgeons and CPSC recommend that you follow these tips:

  • Always wear appropriate safety gear. If YOU bike, always wear a bike helmet. Wear the appropriate shoes for each sport.
  • Warm-up before you exercise. That could be a moderate activity such as walking at your normal pace, while emphasizing your arm movements.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. You can break this into shorter periods of 10 or 15 minutes during the day.
  • Follow the 10 percent rule. Never increase your program (i.e., walking or running distance or amount of weight lifted) more than 10 percent a week.
  • Try not to do the exact same routine two days in a row. Walk, swim, play tennis or lift weights. This works different muscles and keeps exercise more interesting.
  • When working out with exercise equipment, read instructions carefully and, if needed, ask someone qualified to help you. Check treadmills or other exercise equipment to be sure they are in good working order. If You are new to weight training, make sure you get proper information before you begin.
  • Stop exercising if you experience severe pain or swelling. Discomfort that persists should always be evaluated.

There are lots of ways to enhance your life as you age-and staying fit is one of the most important.

This brochure has been prepared by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, D.C. 20207

logo aaos american academy orthopaedic surgeons
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 North River Road
Rosemont, Illinois 60018

Updated on: 03/04/16
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