"Spring" Into a More Active Lifestyle without Getting Benched
Five tips for Preventing Injury as You Gear Up for spring fitness
With warm temperatures right around the corner, many “weekend warriors” are anxious to dive into a more active lifestyle. But rushing back into physical activity after a sedentary winter may put you at risk for common injuries such as muscle strains and tears, ankle sprains and knee injuries, says Jason Koh, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Koh stresses the importance of proper conditioning and offers five simple tips to get back in the game while also preventing injury:
Warm Up/Cool Down Choose a five to 10 minute warm-up activity that targets the muscles you’ll be using during your workout to gradually rev up your cardiovascular system, increase blood flow to your muscles and raise your body temperature. Similarly, do cool down exercises for five to 10 minutes after a vigorous workout to slowly reduce the temperature of your muscles and help reduce muscle injury, stiffness and soreness.
Stretch In addition to helping prevent injury, stretching can increase flexibility, improve circulation and relieve stress. Focus on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area; it takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Avoid bouncing while stretching, which can cause small tears in the muscle, leaving you less flexible and more prone to pain.
Gradually Increase Activity Don’t overdo it. If you’ve been inactive all winter, it’s not realistic to think you can pick up where you left off last fall. Start slow and build up your endurance by increasing your level of activity. If you are just getting started with a workout routine, even a brisk walk is a great way to get your body moving and get some exercise. No matter what your activity, be sure to scale back if you feel overly tired or sore.
Exercise & Nutrition Go Hand in Hand Proper nutrition and hydration are essential to an effective workout. Fuel your body with energy-providing carbohydrates, repair and restore your system with proteins and help your bloodstream absorb more vitamins through fats. You can easily incorporate these essential nutritional elements into your diet through foods such as brown rice, oatmeal, lean meat, poultry, soy, low-fat yogurt, fruits and vegetables. And remember, the more you exercise, the more fluid you’ll need to keep your body hydrated. Be sure to drink one or two extra cups of water to accommodate excess perspiration.
Select Appropriate Apparel Spring-time weather can be unpredictable, so be sure you have workout apparel that is appropriate for warm temperatures as well as chilly weather that will let your body breathe and keep you dry. Be sure to wear supportive athletic shoes and have some reflective apparel in your wardrobe for any outdoor activities you may embark on in the evening hours or after dark.