The benefits of regular exercise are truly wonderful.  However, the down side of being active means that you will probably sustain an injury at some stage. 

These are usually mild to moderate problems that don’t have major long lasting consequences but they are frustrating and can compromise everyday activity as well as return to exercise.

Here are a few ways to reduce your chances of getting injured:

Be moderately active when not exercising: Move, move, move is the key.  Break up periods of inactivity (usually sitting) by changing your posture and moving joints (limbs and spine) through their available range.

Warm up before and cool down after exercise: The amount of time you should devote to warm up and cool down varies depending on the length of time you intend to exercise for and how hard you are going to exercise.  But you should prepare yourself for exercise by warming up, which includes getting warm (mainly raising the temperature of your limbs) by generally moving about until you have a thin sheen of sweat on your brow; active short stretches for all major muscle groups and moving joints through range.  These three components should be intertwined.  Cool down is the reverse of the above slowing down gradually rather than stopping dead after exercise, stretching again but holding for 30 seconds or so and moving joints through range.

Be fit for your activity: A lot of runners just run, footballers play and dancers dance but they don’t train for the specifics of their sport.  Most exercise types require (this is a summary) strength, stamina, speed, suppleness and skill.  Just by playing or performing your exercise form doesn’t necessary mean you will work enough or to a sufficient level of quality on all these aspects.  Runners should not forget to perform strength exercises and stretch weekly along with running, footballers should not forget stretching either but should also engage in skill drills and repeats sprints and dancers should not forget stamina and strength techniques.

Vary your exercise regimen: Performing the same exercise over and over again can lead to boredom and/or reduction of mental alertness, which can lead to physical injury as one switches off mentally.  Various musculoskeletal tissues cease to positively respond to repetitive loading causing micro trauma and failure.  Varying your programme will stimulate your mind and body positively.

Rest and sleep: Some athletes will train a lot but rest is also important to staying fit and healthy.  It is recommended that you don’t train every day, even professional athletes have a day off.  Take breaks every couple of months for a few days or a week.  Some structures such as tendons start to paradoxically dismantle if they are exercised constantly.  Sleep research still doesn’t have a definitive answer to what sleep exactly does for us.  However, it is well known that not sleeping is detrimental to mental and physical function as well as long term health.  There is no exact amount one should get as it varies considerably from person to person but allowing yourself to sleep and adopting habits to assist the quality (for example having a dark, cool bedroom or not over stimulating yourself mentally immediately prior to going to bed) will enable you to stay fitter and healthier for your activity.

Nutrition: It is important to get enough and regular calories in the form of complex carbohydrates if you are a regular exerciser.  This will give you the energy to perform and allow you to work harder for longer as your muscles and other bodily processes will have the substrate for the work that is being demanded of them.  Adequate protein to provide materials for building tissue (not just muscle but bone, ligament, tendon and other musculoskeletal tissues all strengthen under load) is also important but it isn’t necessary to pose with the latest protein shake after every work out.  Regular amounts of protein from balanced diet are sufficient for most people.  However, if you are regularly exercising in sessions longer than 1.5 hours, eating more protein (shakes or otherwise) is recommended.  But probably the most important food groups to eat daily are fruit and vegetables.  The micro nutrients in them allow your bodily systems to work as efficiently as possible.  These systems include the ability to fight off infection; the ability of the body to repair and the ability to strengthen following exercise.  7 or more portions a day with a variety of types and colours are recommended.

Hydration: Water makes up around 60% of the human body.  A small amount of dehydration can make a large detrimental effect on mental and physical function, which could lead to injury.  Humans are not particularly good at sensing when they require more water being about 66% efficient at replenishing fluid based on sensation.  Humans lose about 1.5 litres a day through what is called insensible losses via the skin and lungs so drinking at this much is the minimum of what is required daily.  Add more if the outdoor temperature is above 21˚C and add in roughly 500 ml per hour exercised.  A good rule of thumb to assess how hydrated you are is what colour is your urine.  It should be clear like gin.

Don’t exercise when tired/ill: Injures are more likely to happen when your body and mind are not function well so exercising tired or ill increases that risk.  If you are not feeling 100% then maybe you could exercise but on a modified schedule that day.  If really tired or ill, then there is no shame in resting up until feeling better.

Contact Super Fit for more information on staying active and injury free