While exercise is great for your body and your mind, exercise-induced injuries are not. When you push your body, it’s possible to push it too far, but a little care and attention can go a long way toward protecting yourself. Whether you’re new to fitness or an old pro, these common-sense precautions can reduce your risk of an exercise-related injury.
1. Know your body
It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and take them into account when designing your workout. If you have knee problems, for example, you’re probably better off biking than running. If you have weak wrists, then bench-pressing may not be for you. Knowing what areas of your body have issues lets you choose exercise that will strengthen those areas without creating undue stress.
2. Take it slow
Easing into your workout makes you less likely to hurt yourself. Warm up, start with a moderate workout, and ease into the more strenuous stuff. Diving in feet-first is a great way to injure yourself, both in individual workout sessions and when getting into a fitness routine. Remember that it’s not a race.
3. Don’t ignore pain
If you buy into the “No Pain, No Gain” mindset, you’re setting yourself up for injury. Pain is your body’s signal that you’re overdoing it, and ignoring pain to finish your workout can lead to worse pain down the road. Even post-workout soreness sends a message: A little is okay, but if you’re seriously sore, you probably overdid it and should ease up next time.
4. Don’t overdo it
While repeating the same exercise over and over can build muscle and strengthen specific areas, too much repetition can also lead to overuse and repetitive strain injuries. Change it up.
5. Don’t work out when you’re tired
When you’re overtired or haven’t had enough rest, your posture and your balance suffer. Poor body mechanics and loss of balance can contribute to sprains and strains. If you’re tired, give it a pass.
6. Stretch when you’re done
You hear a lot about stretching before exercise, but stretching afterward might be even more important. When you use your muscles, whether you’re exercising or doing everyday things, they get shorter and tighter. The more you use them, the more length they lose. When you don’t stretch after your workout, you have more soreness, less range of motion, and more likelihood of hurting yourself doing normal activities between workouts. What’s more, you also start your next workout with muscles that are shorter and tighter than they were at the beginning of the last one. Stretching after exercise returns the muscles to their resting length and tone.