Healthy Lifestyle

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Injury prevention tips for the physically active

Physically active men and women come to expect a bump or bruise every so often. Such minor scrapes are often an accepted and inevitable byproduct of an active lifestyle. While broken fingernails or scraped knees are nothing to get worked up over, more serious injuries can sideline athletes and threaten their long-term health.

Though injuries can occur at any time, active men and women can emphasize several preventive techniques to greatly reduce their risk of injury, ensuring they can continue to live active lifestyles into their older adulthood.

* Warm up before beginning your workout. Warming up before you dive into your workout can loosen your muscles and increase blood flow. Light cardiovascular activity, such as five minutes of low-intensity walking or running on the treadmill, can be enough to loosen your muscles and get your blood flowing. Warming up may also improve your performance throughout the rest of your workout.

Athletes may also want to cool down at the end of their workouts. Some low-intensity exercise before you call it quits can help your muscles recover more quickly and reduce your risk of injury come your next workout.

* Focus on form. Strength training exercises like weightlifting are a great way to promote long-term bone health and prevent or reduce the severity of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. But poor form when strength training can lead to injury, including muscle strains and backache. Such injuries can be quite painful and greatly compromise mobility. When strength training, focus on your form. If working out at a gym, ask a trainer or staff member to demonstrate how to use a machine correctly. If working out at home, employ the buddy system so you can have a spotter there to ensure your form is correct.

* Don't overtrain. When working out, many men and women get into a groove, during which it can be easy to overtrain. But overtraining can easily lead to injury as your body and muscles are not given ample time to recover between workouts. Regular exercise is important, but don't overdo it. Make sure your muscles have time to recover between workouts.

* Gradually increase intensity when returning to exercise after a layoff. Many men and women make the mistake of diving back into a high-intensity workout after a layoff. If you had to take some time off from working out because of an injury, a vacation or a busy schedule, then your return should begin with low-intensity exercises that gradually increase in difficulty as your body reacclimates itself to exercise. Reduce weight when strength training, gradually increasing weight as you get back into a groove, and make sure your first few cardiovascular or aerobic workouts are less intense than they would be otherwise.

* Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause serious health problems, so athletes must stay hydrated when exercising regardless of the intensity of that exercise. Exercise-induced dehydration reduces aerobic endurance and can cause an increase in body temperature and heart rate and even muscle cramping. Though it's important to drink plenty of water during exercise, it's also important to drink water prior to exercising. Hypohydration, which occurs when dehydration is induced prior to exercise, can reduce aerobic endurance, making it harder for men and women to achieve optimal results when working out.

Accidents happen when living an active lifestyle. But while there's no way for active men and women to prevent accidents, they can take steps to reduce their risk of injury when working out.

Gadsden Times