Exercise has wonderful effects on the human body, and if all the benefits could be condensed into a pill, it would probably be the bestselling medication of all time. Over the last decade, there has been a plethora of research, looking not only at the health benefits of exercise in general, but also studying specific forms of exercise like high-intensity training, functional training, strength training, besides the ‘usual’ aerobic or cardiovascular training.
However, it is also important to acknowledge that as we increase our exercise volume and intensity, there is a greater chance of injury. While it may not always be possible to completely avoid injury, there are several precautions we could take to reduce their occurrence. Here are five of them:
Do not be a weekend warrior: When embarking on a new programme, start very gradually during the first few weeks. Many of us have not exercised since school days and then 20 years later want to pick up where we left off.
Warmup and cool-down: When starting an exercise session, make sure the first 5-10 minutes are at a slower pace, to give your body adequate warmup time. This is something most exercisers are good at. However, something most tend to neglect (including myself) is the cool-down. It is important not to stop suddenly after an intense cardiovascular workout, as that can lead to a drop in blood pressure and even fainting. Walk for a few minutes before coming to a stop.
Know your limits: Listen to your body is a clichéd statement, but it is extremely true. Sometimes, we tend to get carried away and push ourselves beyond the limit that the body is ready to adapt to. Remember the human body is a wonderful machine that can reach great physical heights, but these need to be reached one step at a time.
Form matters: Pay attention to form, especially during resistance (weight) training. It is a good idea to have someone watch over you when lifting weights, as incorrect technique is a common cause of injury. Regular stretching exercises (after a good warmup) to increase flexibility are also extremely important to keep injury risk to a minimum.
Talk to your doctor: Before embarking on a serious fitness programme, visit your doctor. If you are over the age of 30 and want to engage in vigorous exercise, it is a good idea to discuss your goals with your doctor, who may suggest certain tests before you begin a new programme.
The writer is head of department, rehabilitation and sports medicine at Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.