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Active Aging: How to Stay Strong and Prevent Injury in Adulthood

Active Aging: How to Stay Strong and Prevent Injury in Adulthood

Valley Health orthopedic surgeon, Erik Mitchell, DO, regularly treats “weekend warriors” — once star athletes in high school and college — who arrive in his office with sprains, strains, shin splints, and sometimes, more serious injuries. He knows firsthand about the importance of routine conditioning to prevent exercise injuries since as a former outside linebacker on the University of New Hampshire’s NCAA Division I football team, his workouts were guided by certified trainers, exercise physiologists and other experts. He also knows most of us don’t have routine access to training specialists. Below are answers to questions he’s frequently asked.

Erik Mitchell, MDWhat steps can I take to exercise safely? It sounds counterintuitive, but those who exercise regularly are at a lower risk for injury. Their bodies are prepared for a work out, and they warm up properly, have proper footwear, stay hydrated and know their limits. An active warm up is particularly important: it’s important to get your heart rate and body temperature up with dynamic stretching such as heel kicks, lunge walks and jogging. Developing a routine that combines regular strength training, cardio and stretching helps former athletes – and others – exercise without injury.

What is the ideal amount of exercise recommended for adults and does that change as we age? Adults should strive to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week, regardless of age. This amount of physical activity decreases your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, helps you sleep better, and reduces stress and anxiety. And new research indicates that moderate exercise improves your memory as you age.

Strength training is also important. Lifting weights you can comfortably control for 10-15 repetitions is good for both younger and older adults. Muscle mass increases your metabolic rate and developing lean body mass is good for your overall health.

If I am injured, what then? For minor injuries, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and use “RICE”: rest, ice, compression (using an elastic bandage) and elevation. If you have serious pain and swelling for more than 2-3 days, visit your primary care provider (PCP) or a Valley Health Urgent Care. Most exercise-related injuries can be handled by a PCP, who will make a referral to an orthopedist if warranted.

To learn more about Dr. Mitchell and watch a video about his philosophy of care, visit this page.