By: Rachel McNamara
Exercise related injuries have been on the rise in recent years. In 2015, there were close to 400,000 injuries noted per the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System which collects data from injuries seen in Emergency Rooms. As a consequence of these injuries, people become less active and more prone to a multitude of health related issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, depression and bone loss.
Here is a list of ways you can live free of injuries, remain healthy and reap the benefits of exercise:
1. Always, always warm up and cool down.
Perform dynamic movements like jogging in place, jumping jacks or basic squats prior to a workout. Give yourself at least 5 minutes to warm up. Save the static stretching for your cooldown. Stretching out cold muscles in a warm up can lead to injuries.
2. Take it day by day on what type of workout you should do.
When you wake up each morning, survey the situation. How does your back feel? Your legs? Knees? A little stiffness and achiness is normal upon waking. However, if anything is throbbing or painful and does not dissipate, consider an active rest day or low impact day. Do not push past pain! It is not a testament to how strong you are. Intuitively listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
3. Move, Move, Move.
If you do have an injury (unless advised by your physician), move your body. Get the blood flowing and muscles gently moving. If suffering from a back injury, consider doing the elliptical or take long walks. Moving your body with low impact movement helps soothe the pain by releasing your body's natural pain reduction chemicals. In addition, you'll be able to use it as a way to measure healing (specifically by noticing how long you can comfortably exercise and how you feel afterwards).
4. Stock up on Ice packs.
Some believe heat is the way to go with an injury. However, some who have experienced exercise related injuries believe it actually aggravates pain and impedes healing. Opt for ice instead. Ice reduces inflammation and pain, accelerating the recovery process and numbing the pain.
This may be one of the hardest tips as so many of us rely on exercise and activity to feel our best! However, if you don’t give your body proper rest and care, the injury will take even longer to heal. Even if the injured area feels better, don’t push it. Modify certain exercises as needed or skip ones that are directly targeted at the injury.
6. Dream, baby, dream.
Get proper, restorative, deep sleep. Sleep is magic—it is one of the best things you can do for your body. Among the many, many benefits of sleep is its importance for proper recovery, healing and injury prevention. Many experts agree that if it comes down to choosing between proper sleep and working out, sleep is the clear winner.
7. Apply Mindfulness and proper form.
Pay attention to what you are doing while you are doing it. This seems so obvious but are you checking your form? Are your knees in proper alignment? Is your back flat? Are you using your core? Breathing properly? It’s better to do less repetitions with proper form than several with lousy, begging for an injury, form. Perform your strength training exercises in front of a mirror. Scan your body and mind prior to starting each exercise and eliminate any distractions.
Active and non-active rest days are essential. No one should be doing HIIT 7 days a week or strength training every day. When you allow your body time to rest after strenuous workouts, you become stronger because you allow it to properly heal and reap its benefits. In fact, some of your best workouts will happen after a day or two of just relaxing, walking or going to a restorative yoga class.
For maximum results and safety, mix up your workout routines with different types of exercises and routines (this can include strength training, aerobic exercises, pilates, yoga, HIIT, spinning, walking, etc.).
Edited by: Dr. Francesca Vazquez
Photo Source: The Life of Coco