For older athletes, maintaining peak sports performance isn’t the only concern. The physical effects of aging make everyone more susceptible to orthopedic injury.
Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to minimize your risks. The following tips are designed to help you avoid injuries and keep you on top of your game.
Stretch More and Get Plenty of Rest
As we age, our bodies naturally become less flexible. A daily program of stretching can keep your muscles loose and help maintain a full range of motion in your joints.
Stretching exercises also help to address any muscular imbalances you may have developed from playing sports and participating in athletic endeavors. Years of performing repetitive movements (a golf or tennis swing, for example) can cause muscles to become shorter and tighter. The result is often a sense of imbalance between the left and right sides of your body.
The right stretching regimen can target these muscle areas to provide relief.
Adequate rest after athletic activity is just as important as stretching. Give yourself plenty of time to recover between training sessions and workouts, and you will avoid placing undue stress on your muscles and joints.
Practice Proper Nutrition and Include Plenty of Antioxidants
Athletes of any age can boost their post-workout recovery with the right nutrients and adequate rehydration. Sports drinks replace critical fluids and replenish electrolytes that are lost during exercise. A snack of protein and healthy carbohydrates helps the muscles repair themselves, increasing strength and warding off potential injury.
Between workouts, eat regular, balanced meals with plenty of nutrient-rich foods to maintain a healthy body.
Aging athletes are particularly prone to free-radical damage, also known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to a variety of problems, including chronic fatigue and neurodegenerative diseases.
Combat this common problem by adding a healthy amount of antioxidants to your diet. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetables, and vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, whole grains and leafy vegetables, are a great start. Blueberries and green tea are also known to have powerful antioxidant properties.
Not only will these nutrients help minimize inflammation in the body, but they may also reduce muscle soreness after a workout.
Exercise Effectively and Add Strength Training to Your Routine
Although you may have years of practice in your preferred sports and athletic activities, with age comes the need to recognize your limits. Pushing your body too hard to achieve the same results you got 10 years ago can increase your risk for injury. Consider working with an experienced trainer to develop a customized exercise and strength training program.
Adding strength training to your regimen helps counteract the natural loss of strength and muscle mass that comes with age, further reducing your risk for orthopedic injury. The right types of strength training also can combat the loss of bone density, a common risk factor for both men and women.
No matter how careful you are, accidents and injuries do happen. At Steward Health Care: Centers of Orthopedic & Sports Medicine in West Jordan, Utah, we can create a customized treatment program designed to get you back to the athletic activities you love — an achievement that both younger and older athletes can appreciate!
This article reviewed by Dr. Travis McDonald.