A desire to live a healthy, active life compels many people to include exercise in their daily routines. Numerous studies have shown that regular workouts that include a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise can make bodies less susceptible to injury while reducing a person’s risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Exercising is most effective when it’s part of a daily routine, but that routine can be derailed if men and women are not taking the appropriate measures to avoid injury while working out. While even professional athletes succumb to injury from time to time, there are steps everyone can take to avoid injury when working out.
• Confirm your technique is the right one. Exercise science is continuously evolving, and that means workouts and fitness machines are evolving as well. When using a piece of equipment for the first time or altering a workout routine, men and women should consult with a gym employee or personal trainer to learn the correct technique. Incorrect technique can lead to minor and serious injuries because muscles are used in ways they are not intended to be used when exercises are performed properly. Research appropriate techniques, taking advantage of online video tutorials if you don’t exercise at a gym, to ensure the exercises you want to perform are done properly. When beginning a new routine, ask a friend or gym employee to observe your workout and let you know if you are doing anything incorrectly.
• Be patient. Lifting too much weight or pushing yourself too hard on the treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical machine will increase your risk of injury. This is especially true for men and women working out for the first time or after lengthy stretches of inactivity. Men and women who are elderly, inactive and/or overweight are likely to suffer from poor balance because their muscles are weak. Those muscles can be strengthened over time, but remain patient and stick to light weight during initial workouts so lack of balance does not lead to pain or injury. Take the same approach with aerobic exercise to prevent muscle strains and pulls. Increase weight and the intensity of cardiovascular exercises as muscles gradually strengthen and become accustomed to exercise.
• Allow for adequate time to warm up. Failure to warm up is another contributor to exercise-related injury. Before diving into a workout routine, spend between five and 10 minutes warming up your body with some low-intensity exercises. This increases blood flow to the muscles and makes them more elastic and pliable than cold muscles, thereby improving flexibility. Some low-intensity cardiovascular exercise on the stationary bike or treadmill can greatly reduce injury risk during the workout.
• Vary workouts and exercise regularly. Varying workouts is a good idea because doing so can prevent repetitive-use injuries and prevent overuse of muscles. Repetitive-use injuries such as shin splints and tendinitis require extended rest to heal, and that can derail your routine and nullify your progress. Vary workouts so you are not always working the same muscles, and don’t mistake varying workouts for varying workout schedules. Working out five days one week and one day the next increases your risk of injury.
Injuries sometimes happen when exercising. But veteran and novice fitness enthusiasts can employ a handful of simple strategies to greatly reduce their risk of injury while working out.