How to Start Working Out Again and Avoid Injury
"Working out inconsistently is one of the leading factors in sustaining an injury for many different areas of the body."
Regular exercise becomes more critical to our health, longevity and quality of life as we age. But life gets in the way, or perhaps an injury or fear of injury, and many people simply stop exercising, which can lead to a host of health issues. In today’s episode, Dr. Nancy will talk about ways to get us moving and exercising again, while protecting against injury. Don’t miss these great tips!
- 03:47: How often we need to be exercising
- 09:02: Health Benefits of Working Out
- 12:00: How to Prevent Injury
- 13:50: Avoiding Knee Injury
- 26:28: Avoiding Shoulder Injury
- 35:21: Avoiding Lower Back Injury
- 41:24: Avoiding Foot Injury
- 50:59: Wrap-Up
If any of the following sound like you, then keep reading, because this post is for you:
- You used to exercise all the time, but life’s gotten in the way, and you can’t seem to find the time.
- You sustained an injury, and now you’re too afraid you’ll injure it again, so you forego working out altogether.
- You sustained an injury and have gotten so comfortable not working out that it’s hard to find the motivation to get back into a regular workout routine.
If any of these describe you at some level then today’s your lucky day! Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, is here to get you motivated, and moving that body again. It’s the only one you’ve got so let’s do what it takes to get you back in the groove.
Dr. Nancy will give you some new information about why it’s so incredibly important to work out on a regular basis, as well as demonstrate various ways to protect yourself against injury if you’re just getting back into it.
If watch the Dr. Nancy Show regularly, you know we talk about the importance of exercise quite a bit. Here’s a quick recap of some of the more important points we’ve discussed:
- You should aim to do at least 2 days of strength training per week, for 30 minutes each session. If you do, you’ll increase flexibility and mobility in your joints, as well as improve your bone health and reduce your risk of arthritis and osteoporosis. Strength training will also reduce your risk of injury. If you can build up to 3 or 4 days over time, even better! But 2 is the minimum to make a difference.
- You should aim to do either 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity cardio exercise each week. This can include running, walking, swimming, cycling, or even dancing, hula hooping, or jumping on a trampoline!
Benefits of Consistent Exercise
So we’ve established how often you should be working out, now let’s talk about the benefits you’ll see when you do start to workout on a regular basis.
In addition to seeing improved muscle mass, mobility, balance, and flexibility, you’ll:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke
- Reduce your risk of chronic inflammation
- Reduce symptoms associated with anxiety and depression
- Get your daily dose of vitamin D if you’re working out outside, which can also improve your mood!
- Have more energy
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Feel stronger and more confident
- Improve your posture
Most importantly, though, consistently working out will reduce your risk of injury, which brings us to our next point.
There’s a term used for people who exercise on an inconsistent basis, going at it full steam on the weekends: they’re called “weekend warriors.” Believe it or not, working out in this way is one of the leading factors in sustaining an injury for many different areas of the body.
When establishing a workout routine, it’s important to stick with a schedule that is consistent and spread out throughout the week. Try to do something on a daily basis, even if only for short amounts of time every day.
How to Prevent Injury
Let’s talk about some ways you can prevent injury when you’re just starting out a new workout routine or working out for the first time in a while. Before we go into specific exercises and proper form, a quick reminder about something you need to do every single day (whether you are exercising or not) that is supporting your diet with Smarter Nutrition’s Multivitamin. Did you know that research has shown that over 90% of the population is deficient in at least one vitamin or mineral? That’s 9 out of every 10 people! Unfortunately, most of us aren’t eating enough nutrient-rich foods, and many people also have health issues that prevent them from absorbing an effective amount of vitamins or minerals from the food they eat. The Smarter multi is a great way to give your diet the nutrient boost it needs to keep you strong.
Avoiding Knee Injury
Very frequently, when people say they injured themselves during a workout, it involves their knees. In fact, knee injuries are the second-most common sports-related injury, second only to ankle injuries. This is due, in large part, to the fact that the knee has a lot of parts, including bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons and menisci that all support the joint, and all those parts allow the knee to move in a lot of different directions. If the knee joint and all its many parts are weak due to lack of exercise or even from too much stress placed upon it, it becomes more susceptible to injury.
One of the most common injuries sustained to the knee is a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or a torn ACL. The ACL runs down the front of the knee and plays a major role in keeping the knee stable. You might hear a lot of athletes suffering from a torn ACL, but they’re not the only ones who are at risk. Landing wrong after a jump or changing direction suddenly is enough cause an ACL to tear.
To prevent a knee injury, one of the most important things you can do is make sure you’re using proper form when doing exercises like squats or lunges.
Proper Squats Form
To execute a squat properly, stand with your feet hip-width apart. You want to make sure your feet are flat on the ground, toes pointed straight ahead in front of you. Try not to lean more to one side or the other — you want your weight distributed evenly. When you lower down into your squat, make sure your knees don’t go behind your toes or fall in toward one another, or swing out. Also make sure you don’t lower down so deep into your squat that your seat is touching your heels, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while. Squatting too low can put too much pressure on the knee joints.
Proper Lunge Form
To properly do a lunge, stand with the feet hip-width apart. Engage your core by gently drawing your navel toward your spine. Take a step forward with your right leg and begin to shift your weight forward so your heel touches down first. Lower down as close to 90 degrees on both legs as you can while still keeping weight in that right heel. To protect the knee, it’s important that the knee never goes past the toes. As with a squat, you also don’t want it to fall inward, or swing out to the side, past your hip. Come back up to standing and repeat on the other side.
Working out on a consistent basis will also help prevent knee injury since you’ll be strengthening the joint and all its parts with each time you exercise.
It’s also important to wear proper workout footwear that have a good fit and adequate arch support. This is something else that will help keep your leg in proper alignment when you exercise, as well as help you maintain proper balance.
A muscle imbalance is another reason that knee injuries commonly occur. For example, when you’re doing an exercise like a squat or a lunge, the hip muscles could be very weak, which could cause the knee to move past your toes. The hip muscles aren’t strong enough to keep that knee in line. The same goes for your behind. The glute muscles also work to keep the knee in proper alignment, and if they aren’t very strong, they’re not going to do their job properly, which could quickly lead to injury. The solution is to make sure you’re targeting multiple muscles and muscle groups during a strength training workout — try not to just focus on one.
If you experience knee pain while working out, even when doing exercises with proper form, try a few of these exercises instead:
Osteoarthritis in the knee is another common issue, often a result as a result of normal wear and tear as you age. It’s important that you don’t aggravate it by working out at too high an intensity level. Instead choose a low-impact exercise activity like swimming, walking, or cycling to ease the pain while still getting a workout in.
Avoiding Shoulder Injuries
Just like with knee injuries, improper form is a huge factor when it comes to shoulder injuries, as is a poorly designed workout plan or using the wrong equipment.
Unlike knee injuries, which can not only occur during strength training, but can also occur when running, jumping, and even walking, shoulder injuries most commonly occur during some sort of weightlifting activity.
The most common shoulder injuries include:
- Torn rotator cuff
- Shoulder impingement
- Ligament tears
- Frozen shoulder
When doing exercises that involve the shoulder, it’s important to work the larger muscles, as well as the smaller muscles, which work as stabilizers. Stability in the shoulder is absolutely crucial in preventing injury because if you don’t have adequate stability, you’re likely going to call upon other muscles to compensate or do an exercise with improper form. The same is true for mobility. Having limited mobility in the shoulder can also lead to injury.
If you’re just getting back into working out, here are some common shoulder exercises you might want to avoid until you build strength in the shoulders:
- Triceps dips
- Behind-the-head shoulder presses
- Upright rows
These moves all put too much pressure on the shoulder and force the shoulder into either an extreme internal or external rotation, which can lead to some of those injuries we listed, like shoulder impingement or a torn rotator cuff.
Things that you should focus on when working out the shoulders, include:
Increasing flexibility and mobility. You can do this by doing some simple shoulder stretches like clasping your arms behind your back and gently lifting you arms as high as you can without feeling pain — you want to feel a nice stretch across the chest and shoulders.
Another great mobility stretch you can do is, while in a four-legged position, press into the floor as you do some shoulder rolls, moving the shoulders forward and then rolling them backwards an equal amount of times.
Finally, a mobility stress that you can do and that feels amazing is called a three-way neck stretch. From a kneeling or standing position, place your right forearm across your lower back and take hold of your right wrist with your left hand. Drop your left ear toward left shoulder and look up, look down, and then look straight ahead. Repeat on the other side.
Another way to prevent injury is to do these stretches throughout the day.
This is hugely important if you’re just getting back into a workout routine. If you’re someone who was heavy into weightlifting at an earlier time in your life, don’t expect to jump right into your old workout routine. It’s important to perfect your form before you progress to heavier weights. It might even be a good idea to work out without any weights to make sure you really have proper form before progressing to using any weights at all, especially if you’ve never really worked out before.
Avoiding Lower Back Injury
Did you know that 80% of adults experience some sort of lower back pain at some point in their lives? While most low back pain is acute, meaning it lasts for a short period of time and then goes away with proper self-care, it can prove to be enough of a nuisance that you miss work for a couple of days or are unable to perform your normal daily routines.
Improper form when exercising is a huge cause of low back pain, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ve all heard how important it is to lift with your knees, and it’s true. Bending at the waist to retrieve something off of the floor is the quickest way to put unnecessary strain on your lower back. So is lifting something that’s too heavy.
Other common low back injuries are:
- Muscle spasms
- Herniated discs
- Ruptured discs
- Radiculopathy, which is caused by inflammation or compression on the spinal nerve
Not being very physically active can play a role in your low back pain as much as exercising with improper form can.
Studies have proven that doing low-impact exercises can help maintain the integrity of the discs in your vertebrae.
A great way to strengthen the low back and prevent injury is to keep moving. Moving around never gives your low back an opportunity to tense up and lose flexibility. In fact, studies have shown that people who move around a lot, especially after a low back injury, actually have better flexibility than those who took it easy and laid spent more time lying down.
A strong core can also help prevent a low back injury.
When working out, it’s important to build strength, not just in the low back, but especially in your core. The core supports the low back, which then helps prevent injury. Cardio exercise will also help prevent low back injuries because doing cardio increases blood flow, which hydrates and send nutrients to the low back.
Stretching both before and after a workout will also help keep your low back safe. This could include going for a short walk to warm up, which will, again, get the blood flowing. This could also include doing some stretches specifically for the low back like a forward fold while sitting or standing, or it could involve stretching the quads and hamstrings.
Avoiding Foot Injury
Did you know the feet contain one quarter of the entire body’s bones? Isn’t that fascinating? These two tiny little things, contain so many bones! They also keep us upright, bearing the brunt of our body weight. These two things combined, unfortunately, make the feet ripe for injury.
In fact, if you participate in a high-intensity workout, your feet bear forces greater than 20 times your normal weight. That’s intense!
There are a few things that commonly contribute to foot injuries:
- Flat feet
- Over-pronation (when your foot rolls inward)
- Over-supination (when your foot rolls outward)
- The surface you’re exercising on
- Improper footwear
The most common foot injuries due to exercise include:
- Stress fractures — tiny, hairline fractures usually in the long bone of the foot, sometimes also in the heel. Stress fractures can occur when you suddenly go from no workout to a high-intensity workout
- Plantar fasciitis — a condition that involves inflammation of the thick band of tissue located in the bottom of your foot known as fascia. A major contributor of plantar fasciitis is tight calf muscles and it can cause extreme pain in the heel of the foot
- Sesamoiditis — inflammation in the tendons of the big toe. It results in a dull ache in the ball of the foot, especially when you put weight on it. Sesamoiditis most often happens when you don’t wear the right shoes or you workout on hard, unforgiving surfaces.
- Black Toe — this happens when blood builds up beneath the toenail after the toe repeatedly hits the inside of your shoe.
To avoid foot injuries, the first step is to make sure you’re wearing the right sneakers when you exercise. Look for shoes with a wide toe box so the toes have room to spread out instead of being squeezed together inside the shoe. Also make sure you look for a sneaker where the heel is higher than the rest of the foot. This will help avoid injury to your Achilles tendon. You might not be happy to hear this, but when it comes to sneakers, expensive usually does mean better. Investing in a good quality sneaker like Brooks, Hokas, Asics or New Balance is investing in better foot health when you exercise.
You can also do some exercises to strengthen your feet and improve your flexibility in that area. Give yourself a tennis ball massage by holding onto a wall as you roll a tennis ball under one foot. Make sure you get the soles, arches, heels, and even your toes.
Raising onto your toes repeatedly for 10 second intervals, as well as lifting your toes off the ground at intervals can both help improve flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
If you decide to go for a walk or run, integrate a front of the foot stretch into your warm-up and cool down stretching routine. All you have to do is place the top of the foot on the ground and gently press until you feel a stretch across the top of the ankle. This one feels really good.
This last one takes practice and perseverance. From a seated position, stretch out your toes as wide as you can. Insert a finger in between each toe. This might be a little uncomfortable at first, but try and hold it for 10 seconds before repeating on the other foot. The more you do this, the more flexible and stretched out your toes will become. And believe it or not, studies have shown that people from barefoot populations had fewer injuries than those people from populations who wear shoes. This is because they have better mobility, dexterity, and flexibility in their feet, which helps them avoid injury.
Today we talked about the best ways to prevent injury to your knees, shoulders, back, and feet if you’re someone who is either just starting a workout routine or getting back into a workout routine after an absence.
We discussed some common injuries that can result from:
- Being a weekend warrior, or someone who works out inconsistently throughout the week
- Using improper form
- Lifting too much weight
- Having limited mobility
- Having poor flexibility
- Wearing improper footwear
When starting a workout routine, it’s important that you stretch both before and after your workout. Then, during your workout, make sure you have proper form, even before integrating weights into your routine.
It might also be a good idea to book a session or two with a personal trainer to ensure you’ve got the right form in every exercise and that you’re doing a workout routine that makes sense for your body and your ability.
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