Regardless of whether you are an athlete, someone exercising for fun, or anyone in between, injuries are something we all want to avoid. Even though it may seem like a temporary hindrance, over time, it can develop into a serious, permanent injury with major impacts for the rest of your life.
In order to avoid this, here are five of the most important injury prevention tips!
Listen to your body and know your limits
Particularly in regard to those with injuries of any sort, knowing the limits of your body and listening to its needs is one of the most important skills to have when participating in any sort of physical exertion. Make sure to be mindful of when your body needs rest, whether it be a short break in the moment or a whole week or two of rest. If you have injuries or have previously been injured, depending on the injury and its severity, it would likely be beneficial to take necessary precautions such as using a brace or applying KT tape to support movement and reduce the chances of reinjury.
Start slow and built up gradually
After restrictions have been slightly lifted in Washington, it is likely that many athletes want to jump back into their respective sports immediately. However, because COVID-19 has likely prevented most athletes from being able to properly train or compete, we need to be particularly careful not to go all out immediately upon return. Sudden over-exertion can result in a plethora of issues such as muscle straining, which could prevent you from exercising for an extended period of time. This should also be paired with thorough warming up and cooling down exercises.
Always warm up and cool down
Warming up before exercise of any sort can prevent injury as it raises the temperature of your muscles, which increases flexibility and reduces tears, in addition to slowly raising heart rate to minimize stress on the heart. It also dilates the blood vessels, which ensures that your muscles can receive a consistent supply of oxygen. Cooling down is crucial to regulate blood flow so that it slowly returns to normal and allows for a gradual recovery as blood is properly redistributed in the body after physical exertion. Stretching in particular is a significant aspect of cooling down, as it maintains and can increase flexibility and strength in the muscles, which then positively affects the range of motion of your joints.
Stay hydrated and practice mindful eating
Physical exertion causes the body to sweat most of the time and staying hydrated ensures that the fluids lost during exercise are replenished. This allows the body to maintain normal function and high performance levels while also reducing the risk of heat stress. Staying hydrated can also reduce the chances of getting cramps, an effect that can also be achieved through consuming foods with high potassium content such as bananas. Bananas are a common exercise snack as they are easy to digest, a good source of carbohydrates, and a fantastic source of antioxidants and potassium. Try to avoid large, heavy meals before exercise, as it could cause nausea and the digestive system would be competing with the rest of the body for the blood and oxygen needed to maintain physical exertion.
Exercise a broader variety of muscle groups
Often, sports mainly exercise a certain set of muscle groups, thus it is all more important for athletes to exercise a broader variety of muscle groups to strengthen the potentially weaker muscles. This would likely improve overall fitness, stamina, and mobility. Exercising different muscle groups instead of the same muscle groups repeatedly also gives the tissue time to repair, thus reducing the risk of injury and increasing the effectiveness of your exercise.