How to prevent sports and exercise injuries

cycling

Exercise and sport are great for you and good for your health but as with many things in life, there are some risks involved while being active. These risks are relatively low but people can still get injured during exercise, sometimes through overuse, sometimes from a more direct trauma and sometimes through a lack of decent preparation. Many of these injuries can be avoided – you just need to take the right steps to prevent them.

In this article I highlight some of the things you can do to avoid injuries while exercising. Some of the advice comes from the Arthritis Research UK leaflet which I stumbled upon while waiting for my physiotherapy session. Here I summarise some of the points they make about injury prevention but I also add some other tips which I came across during my research about the subject.

Are you doing everything you can to prevent an injury?

Whether you are a fitness buff or you just started exercising, are you doing everything you can to prevent an injury? When you have healthy knees and joints and have no pains, it’s all too easy to ignore any advice given on injury prevention. Some people may also not follow all the steps needed to prevent injuring themselves. However, you should really think. Once you injure yourself it’s not easy to get back on track. Recovery process takes time, patience, lots of hard work and perseverance. Trust me, I’ve been there and I am still not 100%, doubt my knee will ever be (maybe more about this in another post).

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to do everything you can to prevent any injuries. Read on and find out what you can do to exercise safely and prevent an injury.

Build up gradually

If you haven’t exercised for a while it’s important to take it slowly and gradually increase your activity. There are different ways of how you can gradually increase your activity but to build up your exercise safely you could try:

  • increasing the frequency of exercise (number of times per week)
  • duration (slowly increase the length of a session)
  • intensity (how hard you try – for example, start with small weights and slowly increase weight over time)

If you are not sure how much you should progress over time try and get some advice from a fitness instructor, a personal trainer or other fitness professional.

Correct body alignment is key

Doing exercises in the wrong  way calls for a disaster. If your body is not aligned correctly while exercising this can put stresses on the wrong parts of the body and can cause injuries.

If you are exercising in the gym, make sure you are doing it right by asking fitness instructor to check your posture and alignment. Don’t be afraid to ask! Better ask than be sorry later. Alternatively, you could check YouTube and find the exercise you are interested in.

One of the most common exercises in the gym are squats and lunges. I’ve found some good videos for you already, so you can learn how to do them correctly.

Correct body alignment is not only important in the gym but also in other sports activities. If you play football for example, you should learn the correct kicking technique. If you are not sure about the correct technique you could get some expert advice from a sports coach.

When cycling it’s important you have your bike set up correctly for your height. When sitting on a bike with your foot on the pedal (at the bottom of the cycle) you want your leg nearly straight, but not locked (this will give you knee problems). Your knee should be slightly bent. To learn more about how to prevent an injury while cycling and take care of your knees read this article.

Warm up

You’ve heard it before. Warm up, warm up, warm up! Better be safe than sorry… they say. Before doing any kind of exercising it’s recommended to warm up as this may help prevent injuries. But how do you warm up correctly? You can start by doing some general cardiovascular exercise such as marching on the spot, fast walking which you build up to a light jog and gentle cycling.
A good warm up should also include movements you will be doing at a particular sport and stretching.

Different types of sports or exercises you intend to do will require slightly different warm up (different movements) and the length of warm up will depend on the length of activity you plan to undertake. I’ve researched online for a recommended warm ups for some of the most common activities and below are some great resources I  found.

Here is a good video I found on warming up before running:

For warming up before weight lifting exercises check this guide and for a cycling warm up read this interesting article. See also this Ultimate Warm-Up for gym workouts.

After the workout it’s also important to warm down so you can prevent stiff muscles, joints and even cramps. Warming down should include gentle cardiovascular exercise and stretching you did in your warm up.

Get the right equipment

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to use the correct equipment for your chosen sport or exercise to avoid injury.

For certain types of sports such as cricket and hockey, make sure you wear the right protective gear which is correct size and weight for you to reduce the risk of injuries.

One of the most important pieces of equipment are actually your shoes which need to suit you and the activity you are doing. For some of the best sports shoes check out this article.

Here is a piece of advice about trainers from Arthiritis Research UK:

Whatever activity or sport you’re doing, a key factor in which trainers to use will be your own biomechanics (the mechanics and structures involved with movement).

They also mention that ‘Specialist running shops will be able to assess your foot type and your running style and suggest appropriate trainers.’

Are you a runner? Try and get some advice about the type of trainers you need. You can then search online and see whether you can get some good deals for the trainers you want to purchase.

Healthy eating

If you are active and do a lot of sports it’s important you eat well. You should be aiming for a healthy, balanced diet to get all the nutrients you need and you should also make sure you eat enough carbohydrates which will give you energy to exercise (choose the healthy ones of course such as bananas, beans, brown rice, oats).

It’s important to eat enough carbohydrates especially if you exercise every day. Without enough carbohydrates you will feel fatigue very quickly. This can affect your technique with muscles responding more slowly which could in turn increase your risk of injury. If you need some healthy and nutritious meal ideas check this section of my website.

To help you recover after exercise you will need enough protein such as fish, eggs, dairy products, organic meat, and nuts. A good source of vegetarian and vegan protein are hemp seeds or hemp seed powder.  

Hydration

Making sure you stay hydrated during the exercise also plays a role in injury prevention. If you get dehydrated this can affect your performance which can essentially increase the risk of injury. Have a bottle of water always with you and take regular sips while exercising.

Conclusion

While being active it’s good for your health, you really need to make sure you do everything you can to prevent an injury. The key is to build up gradually, learn the correct body alignment and techniques, warm up and use the right equipment. Having the right diet will also help as will drinking enough liquid during the exercise.

If you already suffer from some kind of discomfort in your joints, knees in particular, it’s important to take necessary steps in order to prevent things from getting worse. Try these home remedies for knee pain and see whether they help.

It’s never too late to do the right thing to prevent an injury so do it today. For you!

Are you doing everything you can to prevent an injury at the moment? Will you be using any of this advice next time you exercise? Do you have any other tips on how to prevent an injury?

Related content:
How exercise can improve your health

4 Comments

  1. Love this post, I think the main thing is build up gradually because so many people go from 0 exercise to marathon running in a couple of weeks and injuries are bound to happen Xx

    1. I am glad you liked the post! Yes, building up gradually is crucial if you want to prevent any injuries. Thanks for reading!

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