It’s no secret that performing any physical exercise without taking the necessary precautionary measures can result in more harm than good for your body. If you find yourself falling prey to similar kinds of exercise-related injuries, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Most of the time, your injuries are a direct result of the workouts you choose to do. But sometimes, other reasons can be instrumental in bringing them on, too.
Two common and lesser-known causes are lack of sleep and poor hip flexors. Less sleep could result in a disaster at the gym because your cognitive and fine motor skills will function at an all-time low. This could mean only one thing: injury. This rings true, especially for those who play sports to keep fit. According to findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, adolescent athletes who get eight or more hours of sleep each night are 68 percent less likely to suffer injuries than athletes who regularly sleep less.
Another common cause for injury is poor hip flexors. This is a common bane among those who spend the most part of their day seated either at home or the workplace. Weak hip flexors are responsible the majority of lower-leg injuries. Here are four ways to combat these causes, and other actions that can result in injury:
1. Stretch more.
The importance of ample stretching before and after your workout cannot be stressed enough. A lot of people take this aspect for granted and fail to incorporate it into their exercise routine. It is crucial that you loosen and relax your body’s muscles to improve your flexibility and mobility, thereby allowing you to exercise better.
However, make sure to stretch only the warm muscles. Static stretching should be avoided as it impairs your strength and stability, thereby leading to injuries. In a study conducted by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was found that pre-exercise static stretching generally hurts rather than helps your athletic performance.
Here are four easy stretches that can help prevent injuries:
- To prevent neck injuries: One of the most effective ways of preventing neck injuries/strains is by doing chin tucks. Simply stand straight with your back against the wall and tilt your head backward until it touches the wall. Hold it for five seconds and come back. Do this 10 times on a daily basis.
- To prevent leg injuries: Doing the standing calf stretch will keep leg cramps at bay. Stand against a wall and extend your arms to chest height. Place your hands on the wall with one leg in front of the other and flex at the knee without bending the leg placed behind. Lean forward without bending at the waist. Switch legs and repeat 10 times.
- To prevent lower back pain: You can minimize the risk of back pain by lying on your back with both knees pulled toward the chest. Move your head forward toward your knees. Stretch only as far as you reach a comfortable position.
- To prevent rotator cuff injuries: Place one hand on your lower back. Slowly slide it up your spinal cord as close to the shoulder blades as possible. Repeat this with your other hand.
2. Work on building muscle strength.
Having weak muscles puts you at risk for pain and other serious problems even if you perform mild exercises. However, it is important to allow yourself sufficient time to build muscle strength since doing too much too soon will only result in injuries.
Those with weak muscles should take it easy when trying new exercises and routines, even if they work out regularly. Beginners should ideally start with low-intensity exercises such as walking rather than running, and doing resistance training rather than free weights. Gradually, you can develop the strength to perform high-intensity exercises and reduce the likelihood of sustaining muscular injuries.
3. Use correct form.
This means using the right exercise equipment and technique. It's important that you exercise in the right manner; otherwise, you will only be forcing your muscles into trouble.
Pay attention to the way you exercise and what you exercise with. Take your time to learn about this. Talk to fitness experts and trainers, join online communities and forums, and read articles or watch videos to learn simple techniques related to running and holding weights.
Always bear in mind that while some post-exercise muscle soreness is normal, your workout shouldn’t be hurting you. If it causes you pain and harm, you need to check your technique and equipment. Do challenge your limits and push yourself, but only after getting your facts right.
4. Get enough sleep.
As already mentioned, insufficient sleep can impair your cognitive and motor skills. This is why you need to ensure that your body and mind are adequately rested and give them time to build back up. Resting allows your body to recover and provides it with the nourishment it needs to repair itself.
Further, drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated as you will lose water (in the form of sweat) when you exercise. Also, dehydration may cause muscle cramping, which could result in exercise-related injuries from falling, tripping, or losing balance.
Nobody is immune to injuries, especially when going about doing something recklessly. Performing intense physical workouts without taking the necessary precautions is an invitation for bodily harm. Ample stretching, warming up, using quality equipment, working on your technique, building muscle strength, and getting plenty of rest will go a long way toward helping you beat the workout-related blues.