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Exercise is an important part of keeping well as we age, but as with most activities, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. To prevent injury, follow these recommendations from orthopedic surgeons and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • Find out what safety equipment is needed for your activity, and use it. If it has been a while since you last participated in the activity, there may be novel protective gear or improved technology in newer equipment. You might want to invest in new items such as shoes with greater support or a bicycle helmet.     

  • Before using a new piece of exercise equipment such as a treadmill or stair climbing machine, read the owner’s manual or instructions carefully.  Or if you are at a gym, have an instructor give you a quick lesson to ensure you know how to program and use the machine and how to stop it quickly if necessary. Similarly, if you’ve never done any weight training before, it’s a good idea to have an instructor teach you the basics and provide a program to follow.   

  • You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: warm up your muscles before you exercise. A five-minute warm-up activity can be as simple as five minutes of walking (it’s best if you pump your arms more strongly than usual) or riding a stationary bike.   

  • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. You don’t have to do the whole half hour at once. You can do two 15-minute periods or three 10-minute periods, for example.

  • If your exercise routine becomes too easy, you won’t get enough benefit from it. You must gradually intensify it. But remember the 10-percent rule, which says that you shouldn’t increase the intensity of your exercise (the distance you walk or cycle, or the number of steps you climb, or amount of weight you lift) by more than 10 percent each week.   

  • Have you heard the term “cross-training”? It is a way to exercise various muscles in your body and keep you from becoming bored by doing the “same old thing”. Try to avoid doing only one activity and following the same routine day after day. To cross-train, you might want to walk one day, swim the next, play tennis on another day, and even lift weights a couple of days a week. It’s up to you.   

  • If you feel discomfort, pain or excessive shortness of breath, stop exercising. You may have some muscle stiffness when you first start a workout program. But if you have persistent discomfort or swelling, see a physician.

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