According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should engage in 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity per week, or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. A combination of these two is also sufficient. Remaining active is important for both physical and mental health. But it’s also important to exercise safely. Check out seven steps you can take to protect yourself against injury and stay in the game!
1. Warm Up
There’s nothing worse for your muscles than jumping into a workout without stretching and warming up. Regardless of age or physical condition, your body, joints, and muscles are naturally stiff first thing in the morning. Even if you workout at night, you’re about use your muscles in a different way than you have been all day. And that requires a few minutes of stretching and warming up. This increases blood flow and helps increase your body temperature. It also puts you in a great, focused mental mindframe for the workout ahead. A warm up awakens all your senses, both physically and mentally. And this pre-workout ritual doesn’t need to be long. Five to ten minutes of jumping jacks, high knees, and butt kickers followed by toe touches and some arm stretches will put you on the right track for a solid, injury-free workout.
2. Switch Up Your Workouts
Sticking to the same type of workout day in and day out isn’t best for several reasons. The first concern most people have is hitting a plateau. You need to keep your muscles guessing and keep pushing outside of your comfort zone. When you use your muscles in different ways, you’re increasing your chances of weight loss and toning, while decreasing your risk of injury. Your joints and muscles are like anything else in this world — overuse it, and it will eventually break down. This is especially true when it comes to low back, neck, and knee injuries. Running and weight lifting are common causes for these types of injuries. You can read more here about how to protect yourself in other ways.
3. Consult a Professional
Fitness experts are deemed experts because they are trained and educated in how to properly train and fuel the body. Hiring a personal trainer or consulting with a professional at the gym is the best way to learn proper form and other useful safety tips. A personal trainer or coach is especially helpful if you’re starting a new exercise routine or are just breaking into the fitness world. Runners may not know how to perform deadlifts with proper form and a bodybuilder may need extra coaching in how to regulate their breathing during cardio workouts. There’s no shame in asking for advice for help when it comes to your workout. It’d be foolish not to ask questions and suffer a preventable injury.
When you exercise, you sweat (if you’re doing it right). Sweating is your body’s release of fluid. And while it does help you lose weight and cool off your body, it can also lead to dehydration. Dehydration during exercise can be very dangerous and lead to lightheadedness, fainting, and difficulty breathing. But dehydration also directly affects how your muscles and joints function. Both water and electrolytes (found in most sports drinks) promote the healthy contraction of muscles during your workout. Without them, your muscles will tighten, resulting in debilitating cramps. Electrolytes are also responsible for delivering important nutrients to your joints, which experience a fair amount of wear and tear during regular exercise. The joints in your knees, especially, are susceptible to this type of breakdown. Other benefits of drinking water include improved circulation, lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and healthier digestion.
5. Fuel Your Body Right
What you drink prior to working out isn’t the only important factor. Eating the right foods both before and after your workout can actually help prevent injury, and more importantly, exhaustion. Food is the fuel your body needs to convert into energy and help you get through your workout. Without it, you’ll experience fatigue, which can then lead to injury. Trying to lift weights, run, or use gym equipment while undernourished is an accident waiting to happen. It’s recommended you eat a high-protein meal approximately 60-90 minutes prior to workout out. This gives your body ample time to digest the food and turn it into usable energy. Healthy carbohydrates including whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta, can also give you a significant boost of energy to use toward your workout. After, be sure to refuel with the same combination of healthy protein and carbs. Your body continues to burn calories long after your workout is done. This is especially true for strength training exercises, which are said to burn calories throughout the day. That’s because strength training supports a faster resting metabolic rate. Fuel up with a healthy snack or meal approximately 60-90 minutes after your workout to promote muscle recovery and growth.
6. Listen to Your Body
This is one of the most important tips for preventing injury during physical activity. Your body is designed to protect itself and does so by giving off warning signs. That pull in your lower back or shooting pain down your neck are signs that something’s wrong. Even a mild tug on one of your muscles and sharp pain shouldn’t be ignored. Continuing to exercise despite an injury will only make matters worse and put you out of the gym for longer than you’d like. Treat small signs from your body as signals that you need to slow down, change your workout, check your form, or consult a doctor. Listening to your body also means allowing yourself to take a rest day. All too often, people become obsessed with exercise and feel guilty when they skip a day. While you should try to perform some type of physical activity every day, it’s okay to give your body, mind, and muscles a break. Try taking a walk or a yoga class on your day off. This way, you’ll give your muscles and joints time to rest, without feeling “lazy”. Exercising even at moderate levels seven days a week, in time, could potentially do more harm than good.
By no means should you cut physical activity from your daily routine. In fact, exercise offers countless benefits from low blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease to improved mood and an overall positive mental health. But incurring an injury during your workout can be devastating, Which is why practicing these safety tips can help keep you out of the doctor’s office and in the gym!
Article Submitted By Community Writer