We all know exercise is important, but we've also seen how it can result in serious injuries. From novices to casual runners, competitive sports enthusiasts to body builders, everyone has a story about an injury that came about in some way, shape, or form. An injury can sideline you for a couple days or weeks, or can be more severe, requiring surgery and taking months to overcome. Although some injuries can't be prevented, there are some steps we can all take to avoid injury as well as help us heal quicker.
If you're a physically active person, you may think you've heard it all. However, you might also be wasting your time on preventative measures that won't do you any real good. Below, find four (and a half) injury prevention strategies that actually work.
Strategy #1: Getting A Good Night's Sleep
According to a study in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, a person’s overall injury rate increases as their amount of sleep decreases. Injury prevention starts with a good night of sleep. Sleep gives the body a chance to repair and regenerate from the day – muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and growth plates need this time to recover to help prevent overuse injuries. According to the study, athletes (and we're all athletes no matter what we do) who sleep fewer than 8 hours a night have a 1.7 times greater risk of being injured than those who sleep more than 8 hours.
Strategy #2: Warm-Up
If you regularly skip your warm-up, it may be time to add it back into your routine. In the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, studies found that warm-ups significantly reduce the risk of injury. Studies also indicate that “the potential for reduced injury rates may be greater if the type of warm-up relates directly to the activity subsequently undertaken..." A warm-up helps your body get ready for exercise. Warming up gradually raises your core body temperature and increases blood flow to your muscles. Warming up will not only help to prevent injury, but will also ensure you get the most out of your workout.
Strategy #3: Check Your Gear
Some types of exercise require more gear than others, and proper gear may be the difference between a good workout and a great one. If you're a runner, make sure you have shoes that fit properly, are designed for your gait and body structure, and are comfortably laced. In some cases, a set of insoles or orthotics may be recommended. When lifting heavy weight, a weight belt may help to prevent back strain. When taking classes, studio shoes that are built for lateral movements are generally preferred. Other gear you may want to consider could be a mat for yoga and Pilates classes, Barre socks, or weight lifting gloves to help your grip, protect your hands, and support your wrists.
Strategy #4: Fuel and Hydrate
Your body needs food and water in order to sustain itself, especially when performing difficult tasks. Hydrating with water (or electrolytes if needed) before and during exercise regulates body temperature and helps to keep muscles and joints lubricated. Proper hydration also helps transport nutrients to key body parts and keeps you healthy. Fueling your body with good nutrition before a workout is also important. Eating healthy carbs like whole grains, yogurt, rice, fruit, and vegetables about two hours before you workout is ideal.
Strategy #4-1/2: Rest
It may go without saying, but one of the most important strategies you can use to help with injury prevention is rest. So often we focus on the workouts, and forget about rest. Avoid over-training and try to take at least one day off per week. If that's not feasible, take one day a week for a restorative class like gentle yoga. You should also take a break if you feel extremely sore and exhausted. Soreness and extreme physical discomfort are signs from your body that it needs a break. Listen to your body and have a great workout!