Ways to Avoid Exercise Injuries After 50

Exercise is a lifelong activity that improves overall well-being. But physical changes that happen after the age of 50 mean it’s important to take precautions. Before starting a new exercise program, follow some general tips for safe activity. You can ensure your exercise program is challenging but also protects your joints, preserves muscle mass and avoids injury. You’ll find the right routine that can help you thrive through your later years.

woman over 50 doing yoga

What Exercises Should You Avoid After 50?

When you start a new program, always talk to your doctor about individual risks. But some general rules of thumb for people over 50 include avoiding:

  • Exercises that put strain on the knees, as this can impact the joints.
  • Long runs, as this also puts strain on the joints and can result in reduced muscle mass.
  • Heavy weights, as they can cause injury if used incorrectly.

For people over 50, there’s a longer recovery time after injury. So, if you do want to engage in some of your favorite fitness activities, try modifying them a bit to reduce the chance of getting hurt.

Ten Exercises You Should Modify if You’re Over 50

There are common exercises that can cause harm if not done correctly. If you are over 50, consider avoiding these exercises or modifying them to suit your fitness level.

Behind-the-Neck Pull Exercises

These exercises involve using a bar to pull down from over your head to your shoulders or to pull up to a stationary bar. When the movement goes behind your neck, it puts strain on your shoulders and can lead to injury. Instead of leaning forward so the bar is behind you, consider pulling up or down with the bar in front.

Lifting Heavy Weights

Strength training is important as one grows older, but weights that are too heavy carry risk of injury. Try working your way up, focusing on the ability to do 10-12 repetitions. If that’s too much, try a lighter weight as you build up muscle.


A burpee is a full-body motion that involves a push-up, a leap and a squat. Most people do them in rapid succession. While they may burn calories, they also require correct form. Otherwise, you may injure your lower back. Consider an alternative exercise that achieves your objectives — cardio or muscle strengthening — without the risk.

Back Extension

This involves lying on your stomach on a Roman chair, legs supported, and lifting your upper body using your back muscles. If you have stenosis or lower back pain, this can be too much. Consider alternative back exercises in consultation with your doctor.

Leg Extension

This exercise uses a piece of gym equipment. While you are seated, you extend your legs, pushing a weight with your feet. This targets your quadriceps, but it also puts a lot of pressure on your kneecaps. Consider other exercises that safely target quads, like extensions with resistance bands or moderate squats.

Jump Lunges

Jumping exercises, like moving dynamically into a lunge or squat, can put strain on the joints and cause wear and tear. Instead, try a static movement that works within your own range of strength and flexibility.

Overhead Presses

This involves a piece of gym equipment or dumbbells, that requires you to push weight over your head. The action puts strain on your shoulders and rotator cuffs, which can lead to injuries. Rotator cuff injuries are more likely as you grow older, so opt for an activity that puts less pressure on this area.


Running is great exercise, but sprints can cause injury, especially if you are not used to this form of movement. If you’re just starting out, try brisk walking or even jogging to avoid the risk.


While maintaining a strong core is important, crunches can put strain on your spine and lower back and pull on your neck. Instead, work your core with bridges or planks, which target the right muscles with less risk.

Running stairs

If you’re not used to running, adding in stairs brings heightened risk. There’s the chance of falling and causing injury. Consider jogging in the neighborhood or running on a treadmill. The latter you can adjust to provide an incline to increase the intensity.

What are the Causes of Exercise Injuries?

With any exercise program, there’s always the risk of injury. The most common causes of injury are largely preventable. They include:

  • Not warming up before exercising.
  • Going too fast or too hard.
  • Engaging in excessive repetition of one movement.
  • Not having proper form for the exercise.
  • Not resting between exercise sessions.

By taking some basic precautions, you can safely engage in exercise and increase your level of fitness.

How Can You Avoid Exercise Injuries?

Talk to your doctor about your overall health and any specific precautions you should take while exercising. For example, if you have diabetes, you may want to think about monitoring your blood sugar before, during and after activity. Here are some other general tips to avoid exercise injuries:

  • Warm up. Do a slow activity before you start your exercise, such as walking five to 10 minutes before jogging.
  • Choose the right activity for your fitness level. Start with low-impact cardio or low-weight strength training if you are getting back into fitness.
  • Vary your activities. Using different muscle groups on alternating days can help avoid overuse injuries.
  • Use the right equipment. Footwear, googles and shin pads are examples of equipment that can protect your body during exercise.
  • Listen to your body. Soreness after a workout may be normal, but pain is not. Stop exercising if you feel pain.

Overall, go slow and steady until you feel ready to increase the length and intensity of exercise.

What are the Benefits of Exercise After 50?

Exercise can help you feel your best in your 50s and beyond. As one gets older, it’s common to lose flexibility, muscle mass and bone density. Hormones and metabolism also change with age. Exercise helps counteract these effects, helping you maintain mobility and support cellular regeneration.

When Should You Contact a Doctor?

You should always feel comfortable to reach out to your doctor for advice and exercise recommendations.

Make an appointment or go to a local clinic if you have muscle or joint pain that does not go away with rest and other at-home care.

Exercise can sometimes cause injuries that need immediate attention. Go to an emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain.
  • You suspect a broken bone.
  • You are bleeding.
  • You have a serious injury.
  • You have severe pain.
  • Your joint looks like it’s out of position.
  • You hear a popping sound and can’t use the joint.

Your medical team can help you get the care you need in the event of any such emergencies.

Why Choose a Provider at Intermountain Health?

Intermountain Health is committed to preventive care. Our network of clinics make healthcare accessible in your community, with telehealth and virtual options to serve you. Our myGeneration Senior Clinics are exclusively for people on Medicare, offering longer appointment times so you get your questions answered. To make an appointment, contact us to find a provider today.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.

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