Quite often I see newly motivated individuals start an exercise regime and shortly afterwards develop an injury. This can often be a disappointing setback. But injuries associated with exercise and sports do not need to occur if we follow some of the simple tips below. Keep in mind that this list is not all inclusive and if you do experience an injury or have noticed that you are injury prone in a particular area of your body then do seek professional advice from your local physiotherapist (physical therapist) before embarking on any strenuous exercise program.
Tip 1: Start Slow
Starting out exercising like a bull at a gate is all well and good until we get hurt. A more sensible approach is to build up your exercise tolerance and fitness slowly. If you are not used to exercising at all or have not exercised in quite a while consider starting with gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, or bike riding. Once you have mastered a certain level consider increasing the duration and/or intensity of that exercise.
Tip 2: Wear Quality Shoes
Quality footwear is important to prevent foot, ankle, knee, hip, and back injuries. Wearing worn out sneakers with very little support is potentially going to leave your body very sore. Consider purchasing some quality sneakers that offer the correct amount of support for your foot. The best approach would be to seek advice from those trained in footwear and foot positioning. Your local physiotherapist or podiatrist would be able to assist with this.
Tip 3: Know your body type
My husband, who is a physiotherapist and author of the book You Can Run Pain Free: A Physio’s 5 Step Guide to Enjoying Injury-Free and Faster Running often refers to the comical yet descriptive terms ‘flippy’, ‘floppy’, or ‘stiffy’ to describe the three most common body types when it comes to ligament stability and flexibility, and therefore susceptibility to injury.
He states that floppy individuals are those who are hypermobile and can be prone to joint injuries due to the fact that their joints are not well protected by stable ligaments. You know you are a floppy if you are ‘double-jointed’ i.e. if you are able to bend your thumb downwards to touch your wrist. These individuals benefit from a balanced strength training program to develop the muscles around their joints to prevent injuries. The next individuals who can be prone to injuries are the stiffy group.
These individuals find flexibility exercises difficult and benefit from gentle stretching exercises to improve their overall flexibility and fluidity of body movements to prevent injury. The flippy individuals are in between these two other types and are neither hypermobile or very stiff. These individuals can still be prone to injuries but potentially less so than the floppy and stiffy group. However, they still benefit from a guided strength and flexibility program.
Knowing what body type you are can help to avoid injury. The better approach would be to seek a trained physiotherapist if you find yourself prone to injuries or better still before you begin an exercise program to make sure that you prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Tip 4: Warm up and Cool down
There is some evidence to suggest that warming up for 5–10 minutes before exercise may help to reduce injury rates. This may involve brisk walking: for example, before going for your jog. Similarly, cooling down after exercise for 5–10 minutes may help to prevent injuries from occurring. This also may help lactic acid to dissipate from muscles preventing muscle soreness.
Tip 5: Stretch
Stretching following exercise whilst your muscles are still warm may help to prevent injury and alleviate muscle soreness. Never stretch to the point of excessive pain. Just a gentle pull should be experienced. Avoid stretching that involves hyperextending the spine forwards or backwards and avoid bouncing whilst stretching. Simply holding a static stretch for 1–2 minutes each side is enough.
Hopefully these tips will help us to remain injury free and keep us exercising well into our older years without any debilitating aches and pains.