Improving your fitness is a noble pursuit and essential for your overall health, but unfortunately, no exercise regimen is without the risk of injury. After all, there’s no such thing as a perfect world!
If you’re planning to change up your exercise program or are starting a new one, it’s important to get yourself checked first, so you know your body will cope with it. Once you get the go-ahead, you can carry on with working hard and getting fit and healthy.
As with most things, prevention of injury is better than cure. Unfortunately, more than 20% of people who exercise regularly will develop some sort of musculoskeletal injury within the first year of their regimen. In brighter news, most injuries are mild and perfectly fixable, and in the long term, regular exercise reduces the risk of disability and mobility problems as we age.
If you experience any cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, or an irregular pulse, stop exercising and seek medical attention immediately.
One easy way to make sure you don’t get injured is to work at an appropriate pace for your fitness level, and don’t push yourself too hard and too fast. Instead, use an exercise program you can easily scale up as you get fitter. Fatigue impairs concentration, which can lead to injury or even falls.
Stretch! It sounds obvious, but exercising shortens and tightens muscles, so stretching brings back flexibility and reduces the chance of pulls or injury. You should also make sure you do an appropriate warm-up and cool-down.
Equipment is also important. If you’re running, make sure you do a gait analysis and wear the right shoes. Shoes are key for weight-bearing activities, too. Also, make sure you wear clothing that’s comfortable, breathable, and won’t get caught on any equipment you’re using.
Use proper techniques. A few lessons or a little coaching can improve your mechanics, as well as your performance.
If you can’t prevent an injury, you need to know how to recognize it. A general soreness or stiffness is quite normal after a hard workout, but if you notice any particular pain or swelling, issues with joint mobility, or skin discoloration, you may have an injury.
The most common sports injuries are sprains and strains, injuries to ligaments, muscles, or tendons. These can vary in severity and often reveal themselves through pain, swelling, and reduced mobility of the affected area. You may also see some bruising in more severe cases.
If you have pain, swelling, or redness at the start of your exercise, you may have tendinitis. Even if it eases while you’re working out, it may still come back afterward. Other common injuries include bursitis, fasciitis, synovitis, fractures, and even dislocation, although you’ll know almost immediately if you’ve dislocated a joint!
With most minor sports injuries, you can treat yourself with the PRICE method – Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Customized ice packs are a great option that’s widely available online. You may also want to take pain medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. If your injury is more severe or you’re unsure, seek medical attention immediately.
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