During the past decade, more and more physicians are telling their patients to get physically active. New research shows one in three patients who visit a physician or other health professional have been told to start or maintain physical activity or exercise. This is important especially with the large number of baby boomers who are now retiring.

The research data shows that doctors appear to be targeting obese and overweight patients. Millions of people are trying to improve their lifestyle as they are beginning to realize that they can reduce their health risks and lengthen their life through exercise.

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This, however, is not so simple. As the body ages there is less elastin and you begin to feel stiff. This loss of elastin and flexibility opens an avenue for injury which will not heal as easily or as fast. The first signals of injury are swelling and aching.

However, lack of flexibility is not always the cause of foot, ankle, knee and lower back problems, but often an imbalance of the bones in the feet that will result in "overuse," or stress on the structures. Warm-up exercises for flexibility are a must before any athletic activity to help any muscle or tendon injuries.

Jogging, walking briskly, or a few short sprints will allow the muscles and tendons to get ready. Strengthening exercises for the muscles, especially the front lower leg and upper thigh, are also necessary to help prevent injury. Other preventative measures include wearing only the best athletic shoes for your sport.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss is a sports podiatrist specializing in foot and ankle surgery. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.