On the Move: How to improve health through exercise safely

July 19, 2018

With the warmer and longer days of summer, many individuals are taking advantage of the season and are becoming more active.  This is the perfect time to evaluate current levels of wellness and recommit to a healthy lifestyle.

Physical activity is one of the best tools to improve or maintain good physical and mental health.  Regular exercise can help achieve and maintain a healthy weight; help reduce risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers; enhance bone and muscle strength; help improve mood; and decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.

To get the most positive health benefits from regular exercise, it's important to understand one's capabilities, as well as how to safely use any type of exercise equipment, to help prevent injuries.

"Most sports injuries result from a lack of proper instruction and training as well as any weakness or structural defect that may be present in the body," says David Keller, orthopedic physician assistant and physical therapist specializing in sports medicine, at Colorado Plains Medical Center.  "Whether you're just jumping into a pick-up game or beginning an exercise routine at the gym, it's crucial to have a grasp on the proper techniques involved in the specific activity, get trained on any equipment being used, and listen to your body to prevent injuries to ensure that you're getting the biggest health benefit from your activity."

These helpful tips can help keep exercise safe, fun, and pain-free:

  • Call up:  Consult a medical provider before beginning a new fitness or sports program and commit to regular annual exams.  Based on current health and medical history, a primary care provider can help an individual decide on the most effective type and duration of physical activity and identify any potential problems before they happen.
  • Train up:  A trainer can help set fitness goals and offer guidance on how to use the equipment in the gym.
  • Warm up:  Stretching, walking, jogging, or starting at a slow pace helps a person's body ease into heightened physical activity and can go a long way in preventing injuries.
  • Gear up:  If participating in a team sport, ensure safety and the safety of others by always using the proper protective gear - even when practicing.
  • Fuel up:  Build up an energy bank with a healthy snack one or two hours before your workout and drink at least 16 ounces of water in the couple of hours leading up to a workout.  Don't forget to keep drinking water during your activity to replace any lost fluids.
  • Change it up:  Combine exercises that target different parts of the body into a fitness routine.  It gives the body a fuller workout, eliminates boredom, and prevents overstressing any one muscle group.
  • Listen up:  Pay attention to your body.  If you experience sharp pain, weakness, or lightheadedness, stop.  Trying to push through acute pain is a shortcut to serious or chronic injury.
  • Rest up:  Build rest days into exercise routines to help ward off injury and fatigue.

While it's true that there is risk with any type of physical activity, the benefits for physical and mental health far outweigh the risk especially when proper precautions are taken to help ensure that exercise is effective and safe.

If you do experience injury during physical activity, Colorado Plains Medical Center can help.  Call 1-800-424-DOCS (3627) to get connected with a provider who can offer help and healing for your injury.  Minor sprains and strains can also be assessed at CPMC's Express Care Clinic, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m.  No appointment is necessary.