There are few things on the planet with a better reputation than exercise. The most visible benefits of regular physical activity are plainly obvious – toned muscles and thin waistlines are dead giveaways of a regular gym rat. An effective exercise regimen can also improve your mental health, serving to alleviate stress while releasing mood-enhancing endorphins.
Like all good things, however, too much exercise can be counterproductive. It is not uncommon for well-intentioned individuals to hurt themselves during a workout, often by performing exercises incorrectly or by simply asking too much from their bodies. Making matters worse is that such injuries can preclude patients from working out, causing them to lose much of their strength and endurance gains while recovering.
While exercise related injuries are a fairly common occurrence, they are certainly not inevitable or unavoidable. By adhering to the proceeding ground rules, you can help ensure that your body reaps all of the rewards of exercise without suffering unintentional wear and tear.
Know Thyself – Aside from fulltime body builders, most people have areas of their body that lack muscle and strength. Because of such limitations, your best bet is to tread carefully when exercising such muscle groups. If you have weak wrists, for example, you will probably be forced to use lighter dumb bells while performing wrist curls. Areas that have a history of injury and/or chronic pain should be left alone entirely during a workout; strenuous activity could easily aggravate and damage these trouble spots.
Avoid Doing Too Much, Too Fast – Another common mistake made in the gym is overzealous strength training; novice exercisers frequently overestimate their own capabilities, and wind up overburdening their muscles. Curiously enough, this same issue often affects those who have worked out in the past. In these cases, the problem is that such people have gone long periods without regular exercise, causing their muscles to weaken significantly. If such limitations are not taken into account, a person can damage their muscles and tendons upon resuming routine physical activity.
Avoid “Overuse” Injuries – The risk of injury still exists for those accustomed to rigorous workouts. If the body is asked to perform an excessive amount of repetitions for a given exercise, inflammation can occur in the body’s tendons (tendons are layers of tissue that keep muscles firmly attached to the skeleton). This condition, known as tendonitis, can usually be treated with a combination of rest and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Use Proper Technique – Even if you have accurately gauged your body’s strengths and limitations, you can still sabotage your workouts through poor exercise technique. For example, improperly lifting weights can cause muscles to be pulled or even torn. The same problems can also befall the tendons. If you are not sure how to perform a certain exercise, consult with someone who is qualified to offer assistance.
Don’t Exercise Too Often – One of the cardinal sins of exercise is working out the same muscles on back-to-back days. Those knowledgeable about strength training, such as doctors and personal trainers, advise waiting at least 48 hours before retraining the same muscle groups. People new to weightlifting, along with those who are resuming regular exercise after years of inactivity, might need 3 to as many as 7 days to fully recover from a workout. An obvious indicator as to whether your muscles have recovered is how they feel; if they are still sore, they need more rest.
Don’t Forget to Warm Up – It can be very tempting to jump right into intense physical activity as soon as you enter the gym. Unfortunately, this puts ill-informed gym patrons at greater risk of muscle cramps and pulls. The good news is that is doesn’t take too long for the body to prep itself for workout. The following activities all make great candidates for a warm up routine.
- Walking for 5 to 10 minutes
- Briefly riding a stationary bicycle
- Jog for 5 to 10 minutes on a treadmill
- Jumping rope for 3 to 5 minutes
Don’t Forget to Cool Down – While it’s important to get your body primed for exercise, it’s equally necessary to properly wind it down after a workout. Stretching the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hips and shoulders should do the trick, along with briskly walking for a few minutes.