Preventing sports injury
Top tips on preventing injury and enjoying the health benefits of physical exercise.
Sustaining an injury is one of the quickest ways to derail your fitness efforts. Whether you’re an avid exerciser or are just about to embark on a new fitness programme, it’s important to know how to move and exercise properly so that you can avoid injuries and keep moving closer to your fitness goals.
Follow our top tips to stay injury free
- Choose your workout carefully
It’s tempting to go straight for what you think will have the maximum results in the quickest time, but there are many factors to consider when choosing workout plans that are right for you. High impact exercises, such as running, can be great for increasing stamina and cardiovascular fitness, but they also come with a higher risk of injury due to the extra stress placed on your joints. Lower impact exercises, such as swimming, can offer you just as good a cardiovascular and movement workout but with less impact on your joints and, therefore, less risk of injury.
- Learn the techniques and how to exercise properly
Small movements can result in big injuries. Particularly when it comes to something like weight lifting. Even what seems like a small weight can rip or tear muscles if lifted incorrectly. By speaking to a fitness trainer or coach, you can learn the appropriate techniques, how to stand and how to push yourself without overdoing it and causing damage. This is even more important if you have any underlying health conditions or if there are other factors that might affect your physical capabilities.
- Get the right gear
Exercise can be hard enough so don’t make it even more difficult by failing to invest in the right gear. Appropriate footwear can counteract any issues you may have with balance or with over, or under pronation – both of which can cause injury. If you’re exercising at night then reflective clothing can keep you safe and visible to others and be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. If running in the cold for example, wear layers that can be put back on once you stop because as hot as you might get, your body temperature will soon plummet when you stop moving.
- Warm up
Don’t just rush straight into things! Warming up your muscles prepares them for what’s to come. It loosens them and prepares them to move more freely so there is less chance of shocking them when you start your workout and less potential for pulling or overstretching a muscle to beyond its capacity. According to the NHS website, a warm up routine should take at least 6 minutes for best effect.1
- Stay hydrated
Your body needs water. Without it you will not just feel unwell but you will have less mental as well as physical endurance and awareness. Exercise induces sweating which results in you losing water and makes it more important than ever to replace it regularly. Dehydration can leave you fatigued with impaired concentration, making you more injury prone and can also result in cramps, spasms and soreness.
- Vary your workouts – don’t focus and overuse one muscle group
Changing up your workout plans doesn’t just stop you getting bored but it helps to reduce the chance of you getting injured. That’s because you can in fact have too much of a good thing. So even if you find yourself really getting into your new workout, remember to take time out. Your muscles will tire and they need a chance to recover and repair. Try mixing things up. If you go for a hike one day, go for a swim the next time for example.
- Fuel your body with the right nutrition
The right nutrition is absolutely vital for getting the maximum health benefits of physical exercise. Different nutrients support your body in different ways. You need glycogen or carbohydrates to provide your body and brain with the fuel needed to recover and adapt to exercise. Plus amino acids – the nutrients that help to build cells and support muscle repair – are essential for post-workout recovery as the rate at which they are used is increased during exercise.2 Foods high in naturally occurring amino acids include meat and poultry, fish, eggs, soy, buts and seeds.
There’s a magic ‘window of recovery’ within the first 30 minutes of finishing your workout where you should aim to give your body the nutrition it needs to start repairing and, therefore, limit your chances of injury.
Follow these points and you are better placed to enjoy the health benefits of physical exercise with a lower risk of injury.
- NHS: How to warm up before exercising
- NCBI: Effect of exercise on amino acid concentrations in skeletal muscle and plasma