Research has shown that a routine fitness program can help decrease the effects of aging. However, while many medical conditions can be minimized, or their effects diminished, an exercise program for mature athletes may also create other health issues. Always consult your physician when beginning a new exercise routine. Sedentary adults who begin intense training may increase their risk or exacerbate heart or cardiovascular conditions. Starting gradually and emphasizing a daily routine of exercise and flexibility will likely yield more long-lasting results.
Older athletes are more prone to overuse injuries. Due to decreased bone density, or osteoporosis, it is important to emphasize a gradual onset of higher impact activities such as running. Additionally, tendons and ligaments become stiffer with age and a muscle, tendons and/or ligament tear or irritation can occur quickly when overdoing an exercise. Focusing a portion of your fitness program on stretching and flexibility is also critical. Chronic and overuse injuries account for approximately 70 percent of injuries in veteran athletes age 60 and older, whereas only 41 percent of younger athletes, ages 21–25, are affected by these same injuries according to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery(October 2005, 407-416).
If you have arthritis, you do not need to stop exercising. A routine with less impact may be warranted to help decrease the wear-and-tear on your joints. Keeping fit, strong, and maintaining weight will help you feel better. Joints benefit from motion. Balance can also be diminished by age. Falls, related to poor balance, account for a large percentage of injuries in the elderly each year. Your exercise routine can also improve balance and may help prevent these injuries. If you choose to participate in more adventurous activities during which the risk of falls or head injury is increased, wear a helmet and other sport — or activity — specific protective gear. Tailor your exercise routine with your physician or another fitness expert to focus on how to reach your goals while staying safe and remember to enjoy yourself..
With the rising obesity rate in the United States, many health care providers advocate exercise for their patients. Often included in this program is a prescription for weight or “strength” training to help strengthen muscles and prevent injury. Concerns are often raised, however, on whether strength training is appropriate and safe for kids. Recent research has shown that the potential benefits of youth strength training extends beyond a simple increase in muscular strength and may include other improvements such as endurance, bone mineral density, coordination and motor performance skills.
Earlier concerns regarding youth weight training focused primarily around the risk for potential injuries and the fear of premature growth plate closure. However, recent data indicates that a supervised weight training program can be safely administered to children as young as six years old without risk of growth plate or musculoskeletal injury. In 2009, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) made recommendations that included 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity participation for school-aged youth. In addition to aerobic activity, the NSCA stated that, “research increasingly indicates that resistance training can offer unique benefits for children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised.”
Preventing injury and proper form is critical to maximizing strength training benefits in young children. Many past injury concerns with youth strength training revolved around the use of inappropriate weights, poor form and inadequate rest between exercise bouts.
Current guidelines recommend:
• Using weight machines and not free weights
• Proper stretching and warm-up prior to each training session
• Each strength training session be supervised by an adult
• Use of a circuit machine that works the major body parts should be performed only two to three times per week with at least one day of rest in between
• Ensuring correct form is used during each exercise, with approximately 12–15 repetitions performed
• No quick movements or jerking exercises, but rather smooth repetitions
• Strengthening the chest, shoulders, arms, legs and calves with one to two sets for each muscle group is sufficient for each training session.
Strength training is beneficial for children on many levels and should include high repetitions, low weights, pre-training stretching and be performed no more than three times per week. If these strict guidelines are followed, substantial gains in muscular strength and fitness-related measures can be expected..
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