It’s been years since many adults have thrown a football or baseball, or taken a bike ride. Having youngsters around, whether they’re children or grandchildren, is a great motivational factor to get moving.
But should we?
Of course, says Robert M. Shalvoy, MD, executive chief of orthopedics and sports medicine with Care New England and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. However, the father of athletes himself warns that “the mind may be willing but the body may be weak.”
“We may not be in as good a shape as we used to be, which means we need to allow adequate time for warming up,” he adds.
A good warm up – which could be walking or a light jog, or slowly and deliberately going through the motions of a sport or activity before going full speed – allows the blood to flow to the muscles and tendons in a certain area of the body before we put high levels of stress on these tissues.
With a good warm up, Dr. Shalvoy says “all kinds of athletic activities are feasible.” That doesn’t mean strapping on the hockey skates and zipping out onto the ice or hopping up on a surfboard without a little preparation first.
“People who are out of shape and just starting up should start slowly and avoid sudden starts and stops, or heavy loads on muscles and joints,” Dr. Shalvoy advises. “A lot of sports, such as tennis and basketball, can be played at varying levels of intensity. It’s best to stay within your comfort zone, especially when working yourself into shape.”
While some soreness or fatigue can be expected at first, he says pain is a red flag that you need to slow down or even stop for a bit.
“Persistent pain, swelling, bruising or difficulty bearing weight are usually an indication for an orthopedic evaluation,” Dr. Shalvoy says, noting that these could be symptoms of a simple muscle strain or bruise, or a tendon rupture, muscle tear or joint damage. To treat at home, he suggests ice over heat.