Injury Prevention

Injury resulting from exercise is a common occurrence with not only the novice exerciser, but also intermediate and advanced fitness practitioners. Improper exercise technique is commonly what precipitates an acute muscle or joint injury. The absence of an exercise warm-up, cool-down and/or improper muscle stretching technique is the most common cause of muscle soreness or joint discomfort. Thus, three components to look for in preventing injury are the warm-up, warm-down, and muscle stretching.

An exercise warm-up of 5-12 minutes is highly recommended prior to your exercise program. While one will often skip the warm down, it is absolutely critical that you never skip a warm-up! The warm-up can consist of any type of aerobic or strength exercise but should be practiced at a much lower intensity and should feel easy. Remember, the purpose of the warm-up is to prepare the body for more strenuous work. The warm-up should focus on the three major sections of the body. These include the lower chest and upward, i.e., the arms and shoulders; the mid section from the lower chest to the mid buttocks area (the abs and lower back); and the lower body, i.e., the legs. Warm-up each of these body parts prior to the start of your exercise program.

The exercise cool-down is essentially identical to the warm-up but is incorporated at the end of your program. Once again, the cool-down should consist of at least 5 minutes and be completed at a lower intensity level than your previous exercise intensity. The cool-down should feel easy.

Proper stretching technique is the third component that is crucial to a healthy and well-developed exercise program. Muscle stretching should be completed after your 5-minute warm-up and at the end of your exercise session to increase muscle flexibility. The key is to practice proper stretching technique. In order to obtain proper instruction with stretching exercises, please consult an exercise therapist or a physician. Either one of these professionals can guide you with the correct technique.

Who gets injured more?

Hard-charging fitness buffs or plain recreation-seekers? According to research, very enthusiastic individuals have a higher incidence of injury. These individuals tend to ignore early warning signs of micro-trauma, and stoically continue to train through pain.

Listen to the body. By listening to the body and making proper activity adjustments based on the symptoms, minor problems will often be addressed at an early stage and never have the chance to become an obstacle to continued training. This means that if you are feeling pain, work around it. If the pain persists, see a physician, trainer, or therapist.

Injuries also can cause psychological pain. Those who exercise regularly can become depressed, angry and experience and energy level decrease when they are unable to train. Additionally, this depression is typically more pronounced the longer the layoff.

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