Fitness Safety

So, you want to get in shape? One of the best ways to tone your body, lose weight, and improve your energy levels is to participate in regular physical exercise. Performing 30 minutes of exercise, three to five times a week can not only get you looking and feeling better, but it can also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses. However, before you rush into an exercise routine, it is important to become familiar with some exercise safety tips. Practicing exercise safety will ensure that you limit your chances of injury and get the most out of your health and fitness routine!

Why Is Fitness Safety Important?
Many of us jump headfirst into our exercise, eager to get going. But few of us take the time to become familiar with exercise safety. And whether you choose to run a marathon or just take a brisk walk around the neighborhood, fitness safety is of the utmost importance. Why? Well, though exercise can be highly beneficial, it can also cause serious damage to your body if you don't do it right. In fact, more than one million injuries every year are the result of poor fitness safety. If you don't practice safe exercising, you could find yourself nursing a torn muscle or ligament, a broken bone, or worse, you could cause permanent damage to your heart or other vital organs.

Who Needs Fitness Safety?
All of us need to practice safe fitness, no matter what our age or choice of sport. We are all susceptible to injury or illness as the result of unsafe exercising. However, some people need to be especially mindful of exercise safety, including:

  • seniors
  • young children and teenagers
  • those with musculoskeletal injuries
  • those with past or current health problems (such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes)

Fitness Safety: What to Keep In Mind

Here are some things to be mindful of when you are sweating it out!

Start Slowly
If you are just beginning to get back into the routine of regular exercise, it is important to start slowly. Don't think that you are going to be able to climb a mountain or participate in a triathlon right away! You need to build up your stamina slowly and get your body accustomed to physical exertion. The majority of exercise-related injuries are a result of pushing too hard when you are just starting out.

Start out with just ten minutes of exercise at a time. Stick to a few laps of the pool, or a few minutes around the track. Always use the lowest amount of resistance on any machine that you might be using. After a week or so, you can begin to increase the length or intensity of your workout. However, don't increase your activity by more than 10% a week. Eventually, try to work up to 30 minutes of exercise, three to five times a week.

Learn the Right Technique
Even the most physically fit among us need to make sure that they are following the right technique when exercising. Holding the wrong position while working out can lead to serious injury as well as compromise your results. If you are a member of a fitness club or gym, ask one of the instructors to show you how to perform certain exercises. Before using weight machines or lifting freeweights, get some advice on the proper positioning. This will prevent muscle strains and sprains.

If you aren't involved with a gym, purchase a book or get a knowledgeable friend to show you how to perform your activities correctly. If you are taking up an activity such as running, tennis, or yoga, most cities offer inexpensive, drop-in classes to help people learn the right techniques.

Warm Up and Cool Down
The most important part of exercising is the ten minutes before and after your workout! Spend ten minutes warming up your muscles before any type of exercise. If you jump straight in, you risk damaging your muscles or straining your heart. Do some slow jogging to increase your heart rate slowly and warm up your muscles. Then do some stretching before heading into full-blown activities. After your workout, don't head straight for the showers. Instead, be sure to cool down properly. This will help to normalize your heart rate and limber up muscles. Do some slow walking and stretch all muscle groups.

Get the Right Gear
Though you may be an avid bargain hunter, now is not the time to compromise on equipment. Whether it's ice skates or running shoes, you need quality equipment. When it comes to fitness equipment, price is usually directly related to quality. When looking for equipment, choosing a product in a middle price range will mean that you get good quality and durability at a reasonable price. Be wary of second-hand equipment, as it may have serious problems with it, which could result in injury. Here are some other equipment tips to follow:

  • Get the right pair of shoes for your sport. Every sport requires differing levels of arch and ankle support. Runners need shoes that have good arch support and a tread that will work on a variety of surfaces. If you play tennis, you will want to look for a court shoe with good ankle support and a flat tread. Basketball players will want to opt for high tops to support the whole foot.
  • Buy equipment that fits. Never wear equipment that is too big or too small for you. It will only impede upon your posture and contribute to injury.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes that allow for movement. Women should invest in a quality athletic bra, while men may want to invest in an athletic support.

Wear Your Helmet!
Helmets and other safety equipment are a great way to reduce your chance of injury. Some sports, like hockey, football, and boxing, require safety equipment, while other sports do not. Consider purchasing a helmet if you skate or cycle. Knee, shin, and ankle guards can help to protect those joints during various activities. And goggles and mouth guards can be a good idea too.

Stay Hydrated
When your body starts moving and your heart begins to pump faster, you are guaranteed to start sweating. And the more you sweat, the more water your body is losing. Be sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise. Dehydration can lead to serious problems, including dizziness and heat stroke. Drink 10 to 16 ounces before working out and drink 5 to 12 ounces every 20 minutes during your workout, even if you don't "feel" thirsty. Feeling thirsty is actually a sign of dehydration, so waiting for this sign is not a good idea. Drink more water after working out, or consider drinking a sports drink.

Watch the Weather
Exercising outdoors can be a really enjoyable experience, particularly if the sun is shining. However, the weather can place added stress on your body. During the summer months, wear light clothing and slather on that sunscreen to avoid burns. On particularly hot or humid days, try to exercise in the early morning or late at night. Be sure to drink extra water to avoid dehydration. In the winter, dress in layers this way, you can add and take away clothes more easily. Wear a knit hat to keep your head warm and consider wearing clothing that absorbs sweat this will prevent you from getting cold.

Know the Warning Signs
Above all, be sure to know how to recognize signs that say you have done too much. Stop exercising if you experience any of the following:

  • acute or chronic pain
  • dizziness
  • sudden headache
  • swelling of the face, hands, or feet
  • chest pain
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