Are you thinking about trying pickleball…or starting golf or tennis after years of sitting around? Be careful! Even if you could quickly jump into a new sport or run a 5K with little training when you were younger, your body in your 50s, 60s and beyond is very different. The one-two punch of age and inactivity causes muscles to stiffen and shrink. And if you’ve gained weight in recent years, those extra pounds put even more strain on your joints. You likely won’t even realize that your muscles are less pliable or your joints more overloaded until they’re challenged in a way they’re not accustomed to. For older adults who are trying to get fit after years of sedentary living, that moment often occurs during a sudden upswing in physical activity.

Likely result: Acute injuries including muscle strains when a muscle is stretched past its normal range of motion (often in the hamstring and back)…muscle sprains, which are like strains but affect ligaments (bands of tissue that connect bones to one another in the joints such as the ankle or wrist)…and overuse injuries, such as shin splints, tennis elbow and bursitis, inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion and lubricate joints. These and other exercise-related damage can sideline you for days, weeks…even months.

It happens all the time. Nearly 263,000 adults aged 65 and older sought emergency room care for an injury caused by sports or recreational exercise in 2022, per the National Safety Council.


Think of your muscles like rubber bands. A stretchy new rubber band has resilience, while an old one that has languished in a drawer for years has lost its “juice” and breaks when you try to use it. Like new rubber bands, muscle fibers are naturally soft and ­pliable. This sort of “give” lets you safely do things like lunge on the tennis court…pivot or jump in dance class…and catch your footing when you slip while hiking. To remain ­pliable, muscles need nourishing blood, which also carries invigorating oxygen into muscles and removes toxins.

Best strategy: Head into your workout with soft, flexible muscles—not just to prevent injuries but to have a more efficient workout.

The following pre- and post-workout exercises flood muscles with blood. Being intentional about warming up and cooling down with these moves will keep your muscles pliable, and pliable muscles will help keep you injury-free.

Pre- and/or post-workout foam rolling. Rolling various body parts back and forth across a foam roller, a firm cylindrical tube made out of compressed foam, ­creates deep pressure that stretches and lengthens the muscles while prompting blood to rush to the area. In addition to enhancing pliability and strength, foam rollers help relax trigger points, sometimes called knots—painful, movement-restricting muscle adhesions that develop in response to poor form while working out, a nearby muscle strain or everyday repetitive motions such as typing or sitting in an unsupportive chair.

To learn more about foam rolling: Look for videos on YouTube created by physical therapists, doctors and other experts with fitness credentials such as CPT (certified personal trainer). The exercises should target major muscle groups such as the back, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings and calves. Aim for slow, controlled movements. If you encounter a particularly tender spot, try to hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and see if the muscle and tight tissue release. Note: Foam rolling should be done before stretching to loosen muscles, making them easier to stretch.

Pre-workout dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches warm up the body and bring blood and oxygen to key muscle groups. Dynamic stretches repeatedly move different limbs—specifically, limbs that will be called on during the upcoming workout or activity—through their full range of motion. Examples of dynamic ­stretching: Walking knee hugs, standing side-to-side leg swings and arm circles…and compound moves such as alternating reverse lunges with a jumping knee drive in between or a plank that moves into a Downward Dog with an alternating toe touch (right hand to left toe, left hand to right toe). You can find videos of these exercises by searching on YouTube.

Post-workout static stretching. Static stretching involves gently pushing or pulling a muscle into its lengthened state (the point at which you feel tension) and holding it. Stretching after activities encourages blood flow to muscles to initiate the healing process. Post-workout static stretching also helps to reduce soreness over the following 24 to 48 hours and enhances muscle flexibility and length. Dedicate five to 10 minutes to static stretching after a workout, targeting any tight muscles. Hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Common Injuries

The most searched injuries on Google are all related to sports and orthopedic injuries…

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Bursitis
  • Shin splints
  • Muscle strain
  • Concussion

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