Exercise is the best medicine, but only in the right dose. Just like a prescription, if you take too little you won’t get the maximum benefit. If you take too much, you may suffer unnecessary side effects. So it’s important to determine the right amount of exercise to achieve maximum benefit while minimizing risks.
Any physical activity done over an extended period of time comes with the risk of injuries. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent them so you can enjoy your workouts without fear or pain.
While exercise injuries are common when first starting out, here are seven simple things you can do to help avoid them:
- Get a routine physical – It’s always a good idea to see your doctor before starting an exercise program. Any new activity can place stress on your body, particularly your joints and cardiovascular system. Your doctor may even suggest a six-minute treadmill test to help determine the limitations you can place on your heart and recommend an appropriate exercise routine based on your cardiovascular fitness. You can even get a referral to Bellin Health Fitness Continuum of Care program from your primary care physician. This program offers you discounts on Fitness Center memberships and personal training.
- Work with a personal trainer – A personal trainer can help you build a fitness plan based on your personal goals, such as weight loss, muscle building, or aerobic fitness. The Bellin Health Fitness team of qualified Personal Trainers can help you avoid many of the bad habits that affect even the best of athletes, allowing you to concentrate on form to achieve the best results. A few sessions may be all you need.
- Start slowly and increase gradually – When first starting out, it is not unusual for people to throw themselves into training at an intensity level that is not only unsustainable but harmful. Start with moderate exercise of around 20 minutes, three times a week. Then gradually build upon this baseline week on week. You can also determine your baseline intensity level by using a system called the perceived exertion scale, which gauges your physiological response to exercise.
- Warm up before exercise – It’s surprising how many people jump straight into weight training or a treadmill run without first warming up their muscles. Even if you’re in excellent condition, your muscles and tendons are tight when you first arrive at the gym. If you don’t warm up, you risk a strain or rupture if you accidentally overextend or twist a joint the wrong way. A proper warm-up goes a long way toward preventing injury and requires no more than a little stretching, walking, or working the muscles with extremely low weights or resistance bands.
- Fuel in advance – While you shouldn’t exercise immediately after a big meal, eating a small snack two hours before helps ensure you have ample fuel for your workout. The same applies to hydration. Try drinking 16 ounces of water two hours before exercising, and take additional sips throughout your workout to replace any lost fluids.When challenging your body with an intense workout, you must fuel the engine properly. This includes being mindful of what you eat before and after training. To increase your knowledge on pre/post exercise nutrition and how it relates to you, schedule an appointment with Lee Hyrkas, Registered Dietitian with Bellin Health Fitness at 920-430-4756.
- Dress for your sport – Many sports injuries occur due to improper clothing and shoes. No matter what you’re training toward, wear the appropriate clothing and footwear for that sport. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a particular brand – you just need equipment that provides ample protection against impact, strain and overheating. If you’re not sure what to get, speak with a trainer who can point you in the right direction.
- Listen to your body – “No pain, no gain” was probably the worst fitness mantra ever created. While a workout can definitely be hard, it should never veer into pain. If you feel pain of any sort, including a cramp or a sudden tweak, back off and give it a rest. You can lower your weights or move to another muscle group until your body is in better equipped to handle the stress. Moreover, if you are sick with a cold or flu, don’t place additional stress on your body. Exercise, by its very nature, triggers an immune response as your muscles are taxed by exercise. If your immune system is low, you’ll likely make yourself sicker by working out. In the end, overtraining can be just as harmful to your body as not training enough. Treat your body kindly, and give it the rest it needs.