We all know that exercise and physical activity is good for us. It helps improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your muscles and bones, and can even help to improve your mental health.
However, working out also comes with a risk of injury. Each year, emergency departments in the United States see approximately 4.3 million sports or recreation-related injuries.
So how can you reduce your risk of injury while performing your daily exercises?
Warm Up and Ease Into It
Going immediately from a resting state to maximum effort is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you more likely to pull a muscle or strain something, but it can also be stressful on your heart and lungs.
Instead, take a few extra minutes to gradually ease yourself into your workout routine with some light stretching and warmup exercises. This will help to increase your heart rate gradually and get your muscles ready for more strenuous activities.
However, clinical research suggests that stretching and warmups before exercising provide a minimal reduction in injury risk, so it should not be the only thing you rely on for injury prevention.
Many common activity-related injuries result from improper movements and imbalances in our muscles and joints. You jump and land on your feet in a bad way, or you twist your knee when you misstep, or bad posture causes you to strain your back.
Neuromuscular training is a type of exercise that helps re-train your muscles and nervous system to move more efficiently and coordinatedly. This can help to prevent injuries by improving your balance, stability, and proprioception (your ability to sense where your body is in space).
Neuromuscular training often involves practicing:
- single-leg balance and coordination exercises
- uneven or unstable surface training
- core stability and control exercises
- slow, controlled movements to perfect your form
Adding these exercises to your workout routine can substantially reduce your risk of movement injuries.
Proper Equipment and Shoes
Another important way to avoid injuries is to ensure you have the proper equipment for your activity and that it is in good condition. This includes making sure your bike is properly sized for you and that the tires are inflated to the correct pressure.
If you are playing a contact sport, make sure you have the proper protective gear, such as a mouthguard, and that it fits properly.
The shoes you wear can also play a huge role in causing or preventing injuries. If your shoes are too big, too small, not tied well, or not the right type for the activity, you are at a much higher risk for injuries like blisters, sprains, and even fractures.
Find shoes that fit you and are designed for the type of activity you will be doing. And don’t forget to replace them when they start to show wear and tear.
Rest and Relaxation
One of the best ways to prevent injuries is to give your body the rest it needs. When you constantly move around and never take a break, your body never has a chance to recover from the stresses of everyday life, let alone exercise.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night and that you are taking at least one day off from exercise each week.
You should also listen to your body when it tells you to slow down. If you are feeling pain or soreness, take a break and let your body recover. Pushing yourself too hard for too long is a surefire way to end up injured.