Exercise done right does incredible things for your health: it reduces inflammation, decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke, triggers the growth of brain cells, and improves your mental health.
Unfortunately exercise done wrong can also cause injuries, ranging from a pulled muscle to a sprained ankle or even a dislocated wrist. Most of these injuries are caused by poor form when exercising, and can easily be avoided with a little bit of knowledge from a physiotherapist or a walk-in clinic.
Here are our top 3 tips for a safe, successful workout:
1. Take any existing conditions into account
One of the most common reasons people get injured during their workouts is because they don’t take pre-existing health conditions into account when creating their routines. They don’t want to be limited by their health conditions, so they push themselves too hard, jumping into routines designed for people already in excellent health.
If you have any known health conditions or you’re over the age of 45, you need to speak with your doctor before choosing a new exercise routine. They’ll know what your body can do now, what you need to work up to, and what you’ll never be able to do.
The most important thing here is to be completely honest with both yourself and your doctor, without feeling ashamed of your body’s limitations. Your body may never be able to run a 5K or even do a single push up, but it’s still capable of doing many amazing things. Respect it, and don’t let yourself be shamed into trying to work out like a “normal” person. After all, most people barely even work out!
2. Invest in the proper clothing and gear
The right clothing will keep you comfortable during your workout, and the right gear makes it easier to keep the right form and stay safe.
You don’t necessarily need to buy clothing designed specifically for working out, but your clothes should follow a few simple rules. They need to be made with breathable fabrics, fitted to allow you to make a variety of movements comfortable, and durable enough to survive intense activity.
The type of gear you’ll need depends entirely on the type of exercise you want to perform. Whatever you end up with, always choose highly respected brands. There are discount versions of every type of fitness gear imaginable, but it’s worth spending the extra money on anything more complicated than a set of dumbbells.
3. Make time for both a warm up and cool down routine
A warm up and cool down routine might seem like they’re just an extra time suck tacked on to your already time-consuming workout, but they are essential to preventing injuries.
Warming up before your workout (ideally even before you stretch) loosens your muscles and joints so they can move more easily. Some good ways to warm up are by speed walking or jogging in place, dancing to a couple of your favourite tunes, or riding an exercise bike. You should spend 5-10 minutes on your warm up.
Cooling down after your workout gradually brings your heart rate down and loosens your muscles, so your body doesn’t deal with the shock of moving straight from intense exercise to doing nothing. A good cool down routine includes 3-5 minutes of a low intensity exercise like casual walking and 5-10 minutes of stretching. Make sure to focus your body on slow, deliberate movements during this time.