January 5, 2023
Safety Tips for Avoiding Injury When Beginning to Exercise
By: Kenton H. Fibel, M.D.
Living healthier, personal improvement and weight loss top many Americans’ New Year’s Resolution lists this year. This is undoubtedly a season of renewed focus on exercise and fitness for millions of people. And while we applaud our patients’ renewed efforts towards improving their health and physical fitness – we ask that they do it carefully, thoughtfully, and with safety in mind. Of course, we want you to exercise, but we don’t want you get hurt on day one. So, whether you’re new to exercise or it’s been a while since you were ‘all-in,’ heed these safety tips to get the maximum benefit from your fitness goals while minimizing the risk of injury.
Don’t Overdo It! This first tip seems like a no-brainer. But you might be surprised by how many orthopedic injuries occur because of overuse – especially when performing an activity too aggressively, too quickly. Want to run a marathon, for example? Train smart by allowing yourself enough time to prepare for the race and ease into those 26.2 miles gradually over multiple months (ideally), so you can avoid being sidelined by an injury. The same advice goes for any other exercise activity you are new to or haven’t engaged in for a while.
Don’t Discount the Warmup and Cool Down. As is true of stretching, the exercise warm-up and cooldown can often be undervalued. Some athletes may see preparing the body for exercise as unnecessary, while newbies may need to learn it’s something they should do. Here’s the thing – minus the time it takes to do it – say five minutes on either side of a strenuous workout – there’s little downside to warming up and cooling down. A good warm-up helps ease your body into the exercise, while the cooldown eases your body out. Being kind to your body on either side of a max-effort workout is good self-care and might even prevent injury. So why not?
Stretch it Out. Stretching can feel like a passive activity to some people – it is anything but. One of the most crucial things you can do for your body – athlete or not – is to keep it flexible. As we age, maintaining flexibility is a critical factor in helping to reduce the risk of a wide variety of orthopedic injuries. The joints in your body operate within a range of motion (ROM). Regular stretching is the best way to increase that ROM to its ideal maximum. Always remember, never stretch when your body is cold. It is important you warm up before you stretch out your muscles to avoid injuring yourself before the real workout begins.
Invest in Proper-Fitting Footwear. Especially for those who decide to start walking or running this season, it’s enticing to lace up that old pair of sneakers, head outside, and get moving. While the intention is good, the execution could lead to injury. Making sure your footwear fits well, has good traction, good arch support, and has adequate cushion can differentiate between a heart-pumping workout and an injury. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your tennis shoes, it might be time to invest in a new pair before you begin a new exercise regimen.
A word on DOMS – Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) frequently occurs when a person engages in an amount of physical activity that the body is not accustomed to. Muscle discomfort related to DOMS typically develops within 24-48 hours after vigorous or strenuous physical activity and usually peaks within 1-3 days of onset.
If you’ve made exercise, fitness, or trying a new activity a goal for the coming year ahead, go you! Statistics say most people give up these resolutions within the first few weeks of making them. But hopefully with setting realistic, attainable goals and listening to these above tips, you will be one that emerges victorious over the statistics and your personal health goals. Cheers to your good health!