'Spring' Into A More Active Lifestyle Without Getting Benched

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Five tips for Preventing Injury as You Gear Up for spring fitness.

With warm temperatures right around the corner, many "weekend warriors" are anxious to dive into a more active lifestyle. But rushing back into physical activity after a sedentary winter may put you at risk for common injuries such as muscle strains and tears, ankle sprains and knee injuries, says Jason Koh, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. Koh stresses the importance of proper conditioning and offers five simple tips to get back in the game while also preventing injury:

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Warm Up/Cool Down:: Choose a five to 10 minute warm-up activity that targets the muscles you'll be using during your workout to gradually rev up your cardiovascular system, increase blood flow to your muscles and raise your body temperature. Similarly, do cool down exercises for five to 10 minutes after a vigorous workout to slowly reduce the temperature of your muscles and help reduce muscle injury, stiffness and soreness.

Stretch: In addition to helping prevent injury, stretching can increase flexibility, improve circulation and relieve stress. Focus on major muscle groups such as your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle or problem area; it takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Avoid bouncing while stretching, which can cause small tears in the muscle, leaving you less flexible and more prone to pain.

Gradually Increase Activity: Don't overdo it.

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