Exercise without injury
Regular exercise and sporting activities play important roles in a healthy lifestyle. But improper techniques and lack of preparation can put even the most active people at risk for serious injuries.
It’s good news that more people are getting the message about the connection between an active lifestyle and good health. But frequent exercise and playing sports aren't enough to ensure good health; knowing the proper way to stay active can be equally important to avoid injuries and painful conditions, from minor wounds and muscle strains to more serious problems such as joint dislocations and bone fractures.
Better Health invited Dr. Winyou Ratanachai, an experienced orthopedic surgeon, to share his expert advice on the best ways to live an active life while avoiding injuries and protecting against bodily harm.
Among its many benefits, regular exercise helps prevent injuries by increasing the body’s flexibility and endurance, allowing the body to safely take on more intense exercise. “But when pushed beyond its limit, the body tends to make the kinds of harmful movements that cause the majority of injuries,” Dr. Winyou warns. “That’s why it’s important to exercise regularly at a pace and intensity that’s right for you.”
Before and after
It’s important to stretch your muscles and warm up before and cool down after exercise. “Warming up increases the amount of blood flow to muscles and tendons, which makes them more elastic,” Dr. Winyou explains. “This prepares your body properly for your exercise regimen. Your muscles and tendons will be more flexible after exercise; stretching as you cool down is a way to further enhance that flexibility and prepare the body for your next workout.”
Protective gear such as knee pads, shin guards and a helmet offers some protection against injury, but its ability to guard against injury has its limits. It’s wise not to rely solely on equipment to stay injury-free.
Treating an injury
When muscle tissue is torn, blood from the tear can result in painful swelling in and around the injured area. According to Dr. Winyou, if you experience swelling, you should perform a series of first aid techniques known as RICE, an acronym for these four procedures:
“If the pain subsides after performing RICE, it’s usually not necessary to see your doctor,” says Dr. Winyou. “But if the pain persists or worsens, you should seek medical attention to help prevent possible permanent damage that can result from your injury. Even bleeding from a common muscle pull can damage otherwise healthy tissue.”
The bottom line: While there’s no such thing as a risk-free sport or exercise regimen, the far greater danger to good health — even from simple daily activities — comes from a sedentary lifestyle.