How to exercise safely

How to exercise safely

Exercise is a great way to help take care of and strengthen your body, but if you’re not careful, can sometimes lead to sports related pain or injury. In this blog, we offer advice on how to exercise safely, to help keep your body functioning at it’s best.

Benefits of regular exercise

There are many health benefits gained through regular exercise, from reducing your risk of illnesses such as heart disease and stroke, to boosting self esteem, mood and sleep quality.

Exercise is also beneficial for many of the musculoskeletal complaints our patients come to us with. This is because it can help build and maintain strength and flexibility, improve posture and protect you from pain.

So it’s clear exercise is good for you, but how much should you do and how can you avoid injury while exercising?

Start small

The NHS has a helpful set of guidelines on how much exercise we should aim for weekly. They include specific guidelines for children under 5 years, 5 to18 year olds, 19 to 64 year olds and older adults.

If you are currently not doing any regular exercise at all, these guidelines may feel overwhelming. It’s important to remember though that any activity promotes flexibility, strength and stimulates healing.  So even if it’s just a short walk at lunchtime, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or playing with the kids in the park, starting small is better than nothing at all.

Ease yourself in

Try to avoid dramatic step changes in sport and activities. If you currently don’t exercise on a regular basis, begin by finding small ways to be more active every day. Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of exercise day by day, so your body can build up the strength required over time. Similarly, if you already exercise regularly, make sure you ease yourself in to any new fitness regime. Again, this will give your body time to adapt.

If you try a new sport, or want to intensify your workout, it’s important to take it slow and not push your body’s limits. Where possible, seek advice from a professional who can help you devise a safe training programme based on your body’s limitations.

Do your research

There are so many options out there when it comes to exercising. Make sure you do your research and find a class or programme that’s appropriate for your fitness level. If you push your body and do more than it’s ready for, you’re more likely to end up with an injury.

For those new to exercise, the NHS website has a great series of 10-minute home exercises to get you started. These can easily be fit into your day to help improve your fitness and strengthen and tone different muscle groups.

Know your equipment

When trying a new activity, always make sure your equipment is set up correctly for you. If you’re cycling or spinning for example, your saddle and handlebar need to be the right height for you, so that you aren’t putting unnecessary tension on your neck or back. Again, where possible, seek advise from a professional.

Warm up and cool down

Always make sure you warm up and cool down when doing exercise. Not only will it help you stay in tune with your body, it’s a great way to keep up with any stretches your practitioner has recommended too.

When exercising as part of a class or an online work out, there should be a warm up included. But if there’s not, ensure you warm up any muscle groups which might be affected whilst you exercise. If you use your muscles without preparing them first, they could get a shock, causing you pain which could have easily been prevented.

Reduce the impact

If a previous injury is causing you pain, adapt your exercise to reduce the impact on your joints and muscles. Activities such as swimming, walking or yoga can be less demanding on your body while helping to keep your joints mobile. If you currently have sports related pain or a long standing injury, avoid exercises that flare it up. Ask your chiropractor, osteopath or fitness instructor for advice on what to avoid, as well as adaptations to try if you’re unsure.

Mix it up

It’s always good to get a mix of strengthening, cardiovascular, balance and stretching exercises into your week. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day and/or at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity every other day. Remember to be mindful of how much you’re pushing your body, however – we all have different strengths and limits, so focus on exercises that work best for you.

Listen to your body

It’s not uncommon to get sports related pain when you start something new, especially if you haven’t eased yourself in. These normally pass in a few days, but if you’re experiencing a persistent ache or niggle, it’s best to get it treated sooner rather than later. Knowing when to seek treatment takes body awareness. Always listen to your body and if something doesn’t feel right, give us a call to find out how we can help.