By: Zoey Dillian
It’s not until you get injured that you realize how vulnerable the human body can be. Unlike some other creatures, we have no hard shell or spikes to defend us from harm. But that doesn’t mean we should wrap ourselves in cotton wool. Accidents and injuries are an unfortunate part of life, especially if you’re active, so it’s essential to be aware of how to make them less likely.
Being active and keeping fit is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. It can improve your overall health and wellbeing and even add years to your life. Luckily for people who love sport and fitness, there are many simple things we can do to stay safe and well while working out.
So what are some of the most common fitness-related injuries? And how can we better protect our bodies?
Strains and sprains
Sprains are caused by damaging your ligaments, usually by suddenly stretching them too far. Strains happen when muscle fibers or tendons tear. Whether it’s through pulling a muscle or spraining your ankle if you’ve injured yourself in this way, it can affect your ability to walk or perform basic tasks. It’s vital to warm up properly before any fitness activity if you want to avoid strains and sprains. Warming up sends blood to your muscles and makes them more supple. It’s a good idea to know your limits and not push yourself too hard and always to ease yourself into new activities. Getting prompt medical treatment can mean that minor strains don’t become a more significant problem in the long run.
Are you a runner? If so, you’ll likely have already heard about how high-impact sports like running can damage your knees. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to condition the muscles around the knee and make injury less likely. The good news is that the high impact nature of running is also what makes running so good for strengthening your bones, fortifying you from other injuries. Getting the right running shoes to prevent knee pain might make all the difference. If you’re prone to a knee problem, look into more low impact cardio exercises like swimming or cycling.
Just like knees, ankles are also prone to injury in running and other sports like tennis or soccer. Be sure to replace old training shoes when the tread begins to wear down. If you’re prone to pain in this area, a brace or tape can be used to support your ankle and prevent recurrent injuries. Winter sports enthusiasts are also vulnerable to an ankle injury. If you ski, snowboard or ice-skate make sure that your boots fit correctly and are snug around the ankle to provide maximum support.
Lower back pain
Exercise and the lower back have a challenging relationship. On the one hand, strengthening back muscles through targeted training can reduce the risk of injury and improve posture and overall health. But some exercise, like weight lifting, can risk hurting your lower back if not done correctly. To get the benefits of weight lifting for your back, make sure always to maintain proper form and only use weights you know you can handle. If in doubt, a personal trainer can really help. Adding yoga and pilates to your fitness regime could do wonders to stretch out sore back muscles and strengthen your core, which can reduce the risk of back injuries. Let the instructor know you experience back pain, and they can teach you how to modify the exercises as needed.
Exercises that involve lots of upper body work, like rowing, climbing, or tennis, can really strain the shoulders. If you experience pain or restriction in the shoulder when exercising, try strengthening exercises to take care of your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a series of four muscles that stabilize the shoulder. Resistance bands can be useful for conditioning exercises like these. Just make sure you research the best practices for your condition and be sure to maintain proper form and posture.
Extreme sports like snowboarding or skateboarding are great fun, but can also run significant injury risks. These sports have been linked to 40,000 brain and neck injuries per year. It’s so important to wear proper protective clothing for sports like these. Helmets might not be fashionable, but they can save your life. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can change everything in an instant and have devastating consequences. Read more on TBI and find out the impact it can have on people’s lives. You want to protect your head at all costs.
Getting the right balance
Most fitness-related injuries can be prevented by taking careful precautions. A proper warm up and post-workout stretch, coupled with conditioning and strength training, will go a long way to protect your body during and after exercise. The right equipment and correct training techniques will also help to keep you safe.
Never underestimate the importance of listening to what your body is telling you. If there is a pain, it’s never a good idea to push through it. Give yourself plenty of rest and seek professional help if you need to. If you do have an accident or become injured, you read up on how to recover from an injury fast. You might be able to use natural remedies, like ice compresses, to deal with any pain and swelling.
Proper nutrition can make all the difference, too. Make sure you’re eating plenty of calories to meet the needs of your active lifestyle. Consume plenty of protein to help your muscles repair after workouts and be sure to get plenty of calcium to strengthen bones. Did you know that Vitamin C isn’t just to fight colds? It’s also essential for collagen production to support the health of tendons and ligaments, while zinc is a powerful healer. Meanwhile, good fats, the kinds you find in fish, walnuts, and avocados, can help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Exercise is vitally important to health, so don’t let an injury interfere with your fitness journey.