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Banged Up and Bruised Boomers

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Tip of the Iceberg continued...

In the Consumer Product Safety report, bicycle riding was the most common activity to send baby boomers (66,100 of them) to the ER. Basketball was the second most common culprit (48,230 treated); unspecified forms of exercise and running came in third (32,370); and skiing, fourth (28,150). The data, though, don't include any statistics about tendinitis in the shoulders and arthritis in the knees, conditions that DiNubile believes may be even more common. These problems are generally the result of years of wear and tear on the body. Or of overuse -- that is, simply doing the same thing over and over again until the body finally objects. (A swimmer's simple act of slicing her arm through water day after day is a perfect example).

By drawing attention to injuries among baby boomers, the AAOS isn't trying to dissuade people from exercising. Quite the opposite -- the group advises boomers to stay active because being sedentary is much more of a health risk than injury from exercise. Yet middle-aged bodies aren't as resilient as they used to be; by encouraging boomers to acknowledge this, the AAOS also hopes to get them to start exercising more safely.

How can you avoid being sidelined by injury? Here are some important steps DiNubile recommends:

Stay Balanced

Make sure your fitness regimen includes a balance of cardiovascular activity, strength training, and flexibility exercises. "The better condition you're in, the less likely you are to get injured," says DiNubile. And if you haven't been exercising for quite some time, it's a good idea to get your doctor's approval before starting up again.

Spice Up Your Life

By mixing up your game plan -- say, walking three days a week, then rounding out the week with stationary cycling and rowing machine workouts -- you'll give muscles a rest that might otherwise be subject to overuse.

Stretch Early and Often

While there isn't much research to definitively show that stretching keeps injury at bay, many experts are convinced that it helps. "Tight muscles are susceptible to injury," says DiNubile, "and since muscle tissue decreases in elasticity and develops scar tissue with age, older muscles are even more vulnerable."

It's important, though, to stretch only when the muscles have been warmed up. So save flexibility exercises for the end of your aerobic workouts, or do them only after five to 10 minutes of activity vigorous enough to make you break a sweat. Running in place or walking several blocks should do the trick.

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