When it comes to sports and exercise, there’s probably nothing worse than getting into a good groove only to have your efforts halted in their tracks by an injury. Not only is it incredibly frustrating in the moment, but that injury could haunt you for weeks or even years.
The good news is that many of the most common exercise and sports-related injuries can be prevented by taking some simple steps:
Warm up and cool down. It may seem like a waste of time, but a few minutes spent warming up and cooling down are vital for preventing injuries. Proper warm-up increases the blood flow to muscles and improves flexibility. Incorporating a cool-down exercise after your workout allows your heart rate to decrease gradually.
Stretch. While there is some debate over the effectiveness of stretching in preventing injuries, there is enough evidence pointing to its benefits that most experts recommend including at least moderate stretching as part of your routine. Try using dynamic stretches after your warm-up and cool-down for best results.
Take it easy. Getting started with a new exercise routine or sport? It’s time to go gradual. It may be tempting to push your body to the limits early on, but doing so is almost a sure-fire way to get hurt. Instead, increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of your workout over an extended period of time.
Use proper form and protective gear. Many injuries can be traced back to improper technique. For example, it’s a common perception that running is bad for your knees. However, many experts suggest that, in reality, running can actually be good for your joints if you have proper form. Wearing protective gear, when warranted, along with proper shoes and clothing also play an important role in injury prevention.
Know when to stop. The old adage “no pain, no gain” shouldn’t be taken as a blanket statement. Know your body and listen to it. Pushing your way through minor pain could lead to long-term injuries. When our bodies are tired, the protective mechanics become lax, increasing our risk for damage to muscles, tendons, and joints. This is especially important to teach our young athletes who may not always recognize the signs of a pending injury.
Talk to your doctor. Before you begin any new exercise, take time to visit with your physician.