"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;...
and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man."
~James H. West

Lisa's Blog

How to Exercise without causing an Injury: 6 Secrets

Lisa Cutforth - Friday, April 09, 2010
Here an expert in exercise and movement, a qualified exercise physiologist shares with you valuable tips on how to avoid injury during exercise.

1.      Warm up your muscles
Warming up our muscles actually decreases your risk of injury. So what
are appropriate warm-up activities – walking is the best or if you are
performing high intensity exercise (i.e. jogging) then work at 50% of
your maximum heart rate. You need to only perform a warm-up for
10-15min and this helps warm the muscles up by increasing blood flow
to the muscles. This is especially important when exercising in cold
weather or if you have a pre-existing injury or arthritis.

2.      Stretching
Stretching needs to be performed after you have ‘warmed up’. Ideally
you should stretch the muscles that you are going to use for the
particular activity, sport or exercise program you are performing.
Choose a few stretches that will stretch major muscle groups and if
you feel particularly tight in an area perform extra stretches on this
section.  You need to repeat each stretch 5 – 10 times and hold each
stretch for approx 10 – 30 seconds. The number of times you repeat the
stretch and/or hold the stretch will be dependant on how tight the
muscle is.  Stretching helps lengthen the muscle, which prepares it
for performing exercise. It is also important that you stretch after
completing your exercise session, especially whilst the muscles are
warm. This aids in recovery and prevents ‘muscle soreness’ from
occurring.
3.      Avoid overtraining or overloading

The old theory “no pain, no gain” is a fallacy. Exercise does not have
to hurt for it to be good for you. In fact, if it does hurt you are
probably doing something wrong. Some soreness is common after
exercising, but if it continues for more than 2 days, then it highly
likely you could be pushing yourself too hard.

If you find you are sore after every exercise session, you may not be
giving your body time to recover sufficiently. You must allow at least
24-48 hours for muscles to recover after a strenuous workout, such as
a ‘resistance exercise program’. On the days you don’t perform
strenuous or resistance exercise, perform low to medium intensity
cardiovascular exercise (e.g. cycling, walking).

When it comes to exercising, you need an even balance of exercise
sessions and rest. Injuries will be more likely to occur when the
intensity of training is excessive. This causes damage to tissues and
undue stress to the body that cannot be adequately repaired during an
exercise session. So if you find you are pulling up sore after an
exercise session you should review your exercise program and check if
you are overloading your body with too heavy weights or too high
intensity activities. Another thing to look at is if you are
exercising too often. If you are starting exercise for the first time
you need to start slowly and build up your tolerance.

The amount of rest your body requires will differ for everyone. Let
your body be a guide. As a general rule women generally require more
recovery time than men, as do older individuals compared to younger
ones.  If you are participating in heavier, more strenuous activities
you will require longer recovery periods for the muscles involved.

If you are still unsure what is contributing to muscle soreness or
reoccurring injuries seek advice from an Accredited Exercise
Physiologist. They can guide and provide you with recommendations to
ensure you are exercising safely and within your body’s limits.

4. Don’t exercise when tired, sick, in pain or have an injury

Do not try to push through pain or continue exercising or playing when
you feel exhausted or tired.
Pain usually indicates a problem or potential underlying injury. You
need to pay attention to the warning signs that your body provides.
Fatigue has been shown to be a significant risk factor in athletic
injuries. If you are sick or feeling generally unwell do not exercise.
Wait until your body is feeling better, you are only putting yourself
at risk of injury or manifesting your illness. Missing one session,
won’t hurt your exercise training program. Listen to your body!

5. Keep hydrated & wear appropriate clothing

When exercising, you can lose between ½ - 1 Litre of water for every
1hr of exercise. Therefore it is important to replenish these losses.
A good general rule of thumb is to drink approximate 500ml of water
every 20-30 minutes during the activity. If you keep your hydration
levels up you are ensuring the muscles don’t fatigue too early and
increase their risk of injury.

It is also important that you dress appropriately during exercise,
especially in extreme weather (i.e. summer, winter). Breathable
clothing is recommended in hot weather, and extra hydration is
extremely important. If you wear thick, heavy clothing this can lead
to excessive sweating, which causes the body to lose heat more rapidly
and may increase the risk of hypothermia. In colder weather, dressing
in layers is recommended. And remember don’t strip off after an
exercise session in cold weather, the extra layers help keep your body
warm and assist in appropriate recovery and prevent injuries from
occurring.

6. Wear appropriate shoes

You feet act as shock absorbers, and therefore are subjected to nearly
high levels of pressure during strenuous exercise. Correct and
appropriate footwear is important to cushion these loads. You must
ensure you wear the right footwear for the particular activity or
exercise you are participating in (e.g. football boots to play
football, running shoes to walk or jog).

If you experience a lot of low back pain, leg or feet pain you may
have issues with how your feet role when they hit the ground. You
should seek advice from a Podiatrist to have your feet examined. A
Podiatrist can also advise you on appropriate footwear for your chosen
activity. Having the correct shoes minimizes your risk of injury.

Remember if the tread on the soles of your shoes has worn
considerably, it probably time for a new pair of shoes. If you
continue to exercise in worn shoes you put yourself at risk of an
injury.

In Conclusion

As more people start recognising the health benefits of exercise and
become more physically active, it is imperative to understand how to
exercise safely. While exercise-related injuries are not entirely
preventable, taking necessary precautions can help to decrease them
significantly.

An individually designed exercise program designed by an Accredited
Exercise Physiologist that focuses cardiovascular and resistance based
exercises will help in injury prevention. You should increase the
duration and intensity of your exercise session gradually to allow the
body to adapt. Do not ignore symptoms of soreness or pain. Address
these symptoms immediately with your GP, Physiotherapist, Podiatrist,
Chiropractor or Exercise Physiologist. Careful monitoring of your body
and exercise regimen not only helps to minimise injury, but also
ensure the exercise is more enjoyable. Otherwise, have fun exercising
and remember to play it safe!

Merendi Leverett
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
(GradDipHSc, BHMSc, MESSA, AEP)
www.merendi.com.au

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