I am sure we’re all aware that regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. However it’s easy when starting a new physical activity or ramping up our current training routine to over do things and put ourselves at risk of injury through overuse.
An overuse injury, is any type of muscle or joint injury caused by repetitive trauma and typically stems from training errors, when we enthusiastically take on too much physical activity, too quickly. Going too fast, exercising for too long or simply doing too much of one type of activity, are all good examples.
Most of our overuse injuries are avoidable, so to help prevent injury we should perhaps consider the following:
If you’re starting a new fitness routine, avoid compressing your physical activity for the week into the weekend, as this can lead to injury. Instead, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, preferably spread throughout the week.
Use proper form and gear
Whether you’re starting a new activity or you’ve been playing a sport for a long period of time, consider taking lessons. Using the correct technique is crucial to preventing overuse injuries. It’s also a good idea to make sure your footwear is appropriate for the activity.
Gradually increase your intensity
When changing the intensity or duration of any physical activity, remember to do it gradually. For example, if you want to increase the amount of weight you’re using while strength training, increase it by no more than 10 per cent each week until you reach your new goal.
Decide to mix up your routine
Instead of focusing on one type of exercise, build a variety into your fitness programme. Doing a variety of low-impact activities such as walking, biking, swimming and water jogging in moderation, can help prevent overuse injuries by allowing the body to use different muscle groups. Choose to include some type of strength training at least twice a week.
Warming up and exercise safely
As the name suggests, any warm-up should gradually warm the muscles and your body temperature. The type of activity done in the warm-up should include major muscle groups that will be used in sporting activity and only takes 5-10 minutes at the most.
Cooling down and exercise safely
In the last five minutes of exercise, slow down gradually to a light jog or brisk walk, then finish off with five to 10 minutes of stretching, again emphasising the major muscle groups used during activity. This helps to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness.
Water consumption and exercise safely
Believe it or not, we lose around one and a half litres of fluid for every hour of exercise. Therefore it is recommended that we drink at least 2 cups of water an hour before exercise and about half a cup of water every 15 minutes during exercise. After exercise drink a little more water to ensure you are fully re-hydrated.
Exercising safely in hot weather
Exercising in hot weather puts additional strain on the body. Heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke and sunstroke occur when the body can’t keep itself cool. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise and choose to wear lightweight, light-coloured loose-fitting clothes. Choose to exercise in the cooler parts of the day and reduce exercise intensity.
Exercising safely in cold weather
In cold weather muscles are more susceptible to injuries, so we should wear appropriate warm clothing and devote more time to warming up and stretching before exercising; and make sure a thorough cool-down is done. It may also be a good idea to keep up on fluid intake, as cold weather prompts fluid loss.
Finally, don’t forget sun protection, as it’s possible to be sunburn even in cold weather, especially at high altitudes or on clear days.