Injury-free Workout Plan

Maybe you gained a few pounds from too much holiday celebrating, or perhaps you realized another year passed and you still haven’t started that workout program. Whichever the case, the start of a new year often brings an uptick in exercise equipment sales and new gym memberships.

Unfortunately, there’s also a rise in injury-related doctor and hospital visits in the months that follow. However, the overall health benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the risks of injury. By following a few simple steps you can avoid most common exercise-related injuries and be well on your way to making this your healthiest year ever.

Choose wisely

When choosing a fitness activity, don’t just opt for the latest fad workout. Your choice should be in line with reaching your overall fitness goal. For example, are you looking to lose weight, build muscle or improve cardiovascular health?

To avoid injury, your gender, age and current fitness level (along with approval from your health practitioner) are also important factors in determining the best workout for you.

Learn proper technique

Once you’ve chosen your workout, one of the best ways to avoid injury is to learn the proper techniques involved.

Print magazines and online articles are a great, source of information, making it easy to read up on the latest tips from trainers and athletes all over the world. Online videos can also be especially helpful for things like complicated yoga moves or targeting specific muscles in weight lifting. Of course, if you’re feeling uncertain, you could always sign up for and introductory class to learn firsthand from the instructor.

Get in gear

No matter what activity you’ve chosen, investing in the proper gear is critical to avoiding injury. While you don’t necessarily need top-of-the-line clothing and equipment to get the job done, it’s important that it’s suited to the task. For example, if you’ve decided to take up running, grabbing your old athletic shoes from the back of the closet will have you sidelined with an injury in no time.

Many of today’s athletic shoes are designed for fashion and wouldn’t have the support and cushioning that’s especially important for a new runner. In addition, even if your old shoes were made for running and look like they’ve never been worn, they’ve likely lost their shock-absorbing qualities, as this tends to breakdown from the inside out.

Warm up and cool down

One of the biggest mistakes many people make is skipping the warm up or cool down. While this might initially shave a few minutes off of your workout time, you’ll likely have plenty more time on your hands when you find yourself nursing a strained muscle.

People often confuse warming up with stretching, which should never be performed on cold muscles. Instead, the warm up should include slower paced movements that mimic the activity you’ll be doing (e.g., walking before you go for a run). This will warm up your muscles and prepare them for more rigorous exercise.

As you finish your workout, be sure to cool down by slowing your pace a bit in the last few minutes. This will help keep your blood pressure from dropping too quickly, which often leads to dizziness.

Light stretching should also be part of your cool down, as this will improve your flexibility. However, keep stretches smooth and fluid, as bouncing or jerking motions can stretch muscles and ligaments too far, leading to injury.

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