By Nabila Jutha, MScPT, BScKIN (HON)
Got plans to hit up the gym in the New Year?
That notion of starting off the New Year “right” almost always includes a new membership to the nearby gym or a promise to oneself to start using that gym membership that you’ve already had for months but haven’t set the time to go.
As an avid gym go-er, I see the influx of new bodies entering the gym at the start of the New Year. At this time, lots of emotions are running through my head – excitement for those starting a new healthy and active journey, nervous for those jumping onto machines without a clue of how to use them, and most of all, on edge about those who hop on the treadmill and skip straight to level 6.0 thinking the faster they run, the faster they will reach their goals. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be this list of top four tips to avoid injury when getting back into exercise.
Tips to Avoid Injury this New Year
Proper warm up and cool down
Starting your workout with a proper warm-up ensures increased muscle compliance during exercise. This, therefore, decreases the risk for muscle strains during exercise. Warm-up can consist of 10-15min of bicycling or step-ups, nothing too strenuous!
Cool-down is just as important. To avoid that delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle stiffness post-activity, set some time aside for a 10-minute cool-down period. This can include some gentle cycling and some stretching.
Muscles need a break, too! Keeping a day or two in between workouts is not a bad idea – this way the muscles can recover from the previous workout and are ready to be stressed again! If you are strapped with time and can only get to the gym Monday-Thursday, try splitting your workouts into upper and lower body. This way you can alternate, leaving a day in between for a rest.
Exercise causes dehydration. Period.
Dehydration is the loss of body water. In addition to the other environmental conditions while exercising (environment temperature, clothing), your body loses a lot of water through sweating. Being dehydrated causes increased strain on your body, and actually requires you to work even harder to complete the same task or exercise. Therefore, staying well hydrated before, during and after physical activity minimizes the risk for injury.
Although most current evidence does not clinically support the importance of stretching post-exercise, I’m sure most of you can tell me that it does really help! By taking that time at the end of your workout to stretch, it helps to maintain flexibility in those muscles, and therefore prevent further injury and muscle stiffness. Remember, that your muscles are like a rubber band. Doing a quick stretch will not change the muscle length, it will coil back to what it was. So, holding that stretch for a good 30 seconds will ensure that your “rubberband” will remain stretched out for a good period of time!
New year’s resolutions are GREAT! I think one of the best resolutions it’s to start living a healthy and active lifestyle. This is just a friendly reminder to take things slow, and be mindful when carrying out this resolution. Our bodies need time to adjust to certain environments and stresses, otherwise injury can sneak up on us.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your daily physical routine or require an exercise prescription, make an appointment with your Physiotherapist! This can make your transition into the gym a whole lot easier!
Learn more about Nabila and how she can help you achieve your health goals.
- Candas, V. et. al. Hydration and exercise: effects on thermal and cardiovascular adjustments. (1986) 55(2): 113-122.
- Law RYW, Herbert RD. Warm-up reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness but cool-down does not: a randomised controlled trial. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy (2007) 53: 91–95.
- Sawka, M.N. et al. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sport Exercise. American College of Sport Medicine, Special Communications (2007).
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