Exercise and sport are effective ways to keep in shape and a great start on the road to a healthy lifestyle. However, keeping fit and active can also sometimes have adverse effects in the form of injury.
An Australian study identified the most common sporting activities that lead to injury were Australian Rules Football; basketball; soccer; netball and rugby. Individual activities, such as weight training and running may also lead to a range of injuries.
It is therefore important to take some practical precautions to avoid injury. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your fitness program or sport while preventing injury.
Avoiding dehydration and overheating
Whatever exercise you are doing, it is important to maintain your fluid levels to avoid dehydration. If you become dehydrated you will not be able to regulate your body temperature as effectively, which means that you’ll risk overheating (hypothermia). Dehydration will also affect your performance as your blood volume will reduce and you will be less likely to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
Start your activity or work out well hydrated by drinking before you start and continue to drink throughout. Continuing to drink after you have finished will ensure that weight lost through fluid depletion is replaced. Remember that any drinks containing caffeine can lead to increased dehydration so it’s best to stick with good old fashioned H2O!
Try to be acclimatised to the area and conditions where you participate in physical activity as this helps to ensure your body is equipped to handle those conditions. For example, you may be particularly vulnerable to the heat at the start of summer when are not used to it. Your body will adapt to exercising in warm conditions, making you more able to cope with the heat, but this will take time. Even when you are fully acclimatised, it is important to drink enough to avoid dehydration.
If you are outdoors, remember to use adequate sun protection. Wear a hat and apply sunscreen. Try to avoid exercising during the hottest part of the day. There is no benefit to exercising when you are dehydrated, so wear appropriate clothing which should be light and permits your sweat to evaporate freely.
Sweat only cools you when it evaporates off your bod so don’t purposely wear excessive clothing that may cause you to overheat. If you do, you will lose even more body fluid unnecessarily, which can have an adverse effect.
Warm up and cool down
You can help to reduce the risk of a serious injury by warming up before exercise and taking time to cool down after your activity. A warm up is exactly that, to gradually warm your muscles and get your heart going. This should last for 5 to 15 minutes depending on how strenuous your main exercise will be.
Stretching as part of your warm up with help promote blood flow to your muscles, increasing flexibility and reducing the chance of getting a new injury or aggravating an old one. Remember to stretch only when those muscles are warm and to use all the muscle groups you will be using in your activity or workout.
It's ideal to spend a few extra minutes of your warm up on areas that you know are prone to injury or flare up for you personally. If you'd like specific advice for your situation please ask us.
A gentle cool-down will help reduce stiffness and soreness. It also helps to remove waste products from muscles you have used during your activity and will replace them with nutrients and oxygen.
Ease into it
Try not to overdo it when beginning a new sport or exercise routine. It is important to build on your fitness levels and if you know your limits, it will mean you have less chance of sustaining a sporting injury.
It's also important to ensure that you are doing your chosen exercise correctly, seeking advice from your team mates, coaches & trainers will help you with this. At enerG+ we offer specialised boxing technique classes that you can do as many times as you need to make sure that you are feeling comfortable in confident in how to deliver your punches and kicks to avoid injury.
A lack of fitness will increase your chance of pulling a muscle or suffering from heat exhaustion. Attempting to do too much when your body is not conditioned for it may also increase your risk of injury.
If you have a chronic illness, a family history of heart disease or are over 40 years old and have not exercised for some time, a check-up by your doctor prior to undertaking vigorous exercise is recommended.
Have the right equipment
No matter what sport or exercise you do, the correct footwear is essential to absorb the impact of movement as well as provide adequate support for your ankles and feet. This is especially important in sports where knee and ankle injuries are common such as netball and football.
Advice can be sought from your sports podiatrist or physiotherapist or a specialist sports shoe shops. The Running Company - a wonderful supporter of enerG+ - is sure to be able to help!
To help avoid injury, knee and elbow pads, helmets and mouth guards may be helpful in many contact sports or sports where there is a risk of impact with another player, the ground or a piece of equipment.
Treating an injury
While broken bones and severe sporting injuries such as concussion should be treated immediately by a medical professional, less serious sprains and strains can initially be helped by the RICE method.
Rest - Rest reduces further damage. It is important to avoid as much movement as possible and not put any weight on the injured part of the body to limit further injury.
Ice - Apply a cold pack to the injury for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Ice cools the tissue and can reduce pain, swelling and bleeding. Place the cold pack wrapped in a towel onto the injured area. Do not apply ice or cold packs directly to the skin. Extra care must be taken with people sensitive to cold (such as children) or with circulatory problems.
Compression - Apply a compression bandage which will help to reduce bleeding and swelling.
Elevation - Elevate the injured area to stop bleeding and swelling. You may want to place the injured area on a pillow for comfort and support.
Keeping fit and healthy is great but looking after yourself is just as important. Your health is your wealth