Prepare for Exercise Success
Many adults begin the early weeks and months of a new year trying to launch and maintain a rigorous exercise program. And yet, these overly ambitious and strenuous efforts often result in injury, and ultimately, discouragement and the return to sedentary habits.
In 2011, more than 800,000 Americans received medical treatment for exercise-related (non-equipment) injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
"The problem is that many people mistakenly think that pushing their bodies harder and enduring pain are the keys to a successful exercise program," said E. Edward Khalfayan, MD, a Seattle orthopaedic surgeon who is the head team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners, and an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson.
"Many injuries that we see are due to overuse and training errors. An optimal, sustainable exercise program begins slowly, and continues with a gradual increase in difficulty," said Dr. Khalfayan. "Before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have an existing health condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or if you are a smoker, contact your physician. It's also advisable to talk to your physician if you have any bone, joint, or muscle pain that does not improve with rest, ice and modified exercise."
Consider the following Academy exercise tips to reduce injuries:
- >>Embark on a balanced fitness program. A program that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility, is preferable for optimal health and fitness. A balanced exercise program also will keep you from getting bored and lessen your chance for injury.
- >>Warm up first. First, warm up, even before stretching. Run in place for a few minutes, breathe slowly and deeply, or gently rehearse the motions of the exercise to follow. Warming up increases your heart and blood flow rates and loosens up other muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
- >>Stretch. Begin stretches slowly and carefully until reaching a point of muscle tension. Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and then slowly and carefully release it. Inhale before each stretch and exhale as you release. Do each stretch only once. Never stretch to the point of pain. Always maintain control, and never bounce on a muscle that is fully stretched.
- >>Use proper equipment. First, look for running or athletic shoes that provide good construction, shock absorption and foot stability. Also, make sure that there is a thumbnail's width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. As 60 percent of a shoe's shock absorption is lost after 250 to 500 miles of use, people who run up to 10 miles per week should consider replacing their shoes every 9 to 12 months. Also, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that allow you to move freely, and to easily release body heat. When exercising in cold weather, dress in removable layers.
- >>Take your time. During strength training, move through the full range of motion with each repetition. Breathe regularly to help lower your blood pressure and increase blood supply to the brain.
- >>Stay hydrated. Drink enough water to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Drink 1 pint of water 15 minutes before you start exercising and another pint after you cool down. Have a drink of water every 20 minutes or so while you exercise.
- >>Cool down. Make cooling down the final phase of your exercise routine. It should take twice as long as the warm up. Slow your motions and lessen the intensity of your movements for at least 10 minutes before you stop completely. This phase of a safe exercise program should conclude when your skin is dry and you have cooled down.
- >>Rest. Schedule regular days off from exercise and rest when tired. Fatigue and pain are good reasons to not exercise.