When it comes to exercise, we all want to achieve quicker results. As evidenced by the increasing popularity of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programs, many individuals are lining up to participate in these activities that promise to help them rapidly reach their fitness goals.
Before jumping onto the HIIT fitness bandwagon, orthopaedic surgeons encourage people to approach exercise programs safely. Of course, the key to safe exercise is moderation.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 939,700 Americans received medical treatment for exercise-related injuries in 2012 – approximately 100,000 more people than what was reported in 2011.
To reduce the risk for exercise-related injuries, consider these safety tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
- Extreme workouts aren’t for beginners. Start with a program of moderate physical activity – perhaps 30 minutes a session. If 30 minutes is too much in the beginning break it up into shorter intervals. For instance, walk for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes later in the day.
- Follow a schedule. Both new and experienced exercisers benefit from following a schedule. Set a weekly exercise schedule that includes days off. For example, you might exercise every other day, with three days off each week.
- Embark on a balanced fitness program. A program that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training, flexibility and balance training is preferable for optimal health and fitness. A balanced exercise program will also keep you from getting bored and lessen your chance for injury.
- Warm up first. Run in place for a few minutes, breathe slowly and deeply, or gently rehearse the motions of the exercise to follow. Warming up increases your heart and blood flow rates and loosens up other muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.
- Stretch. Begin stretches slowly and carefully until reaching a point of muscle tension. Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and then slowly and carefully release it. Inhale before each stretch and exhale as you release. Do each stretch only once. Never stretch to the point of pain. Always maintain control.
- Use proper equipment. First, look for running or athletic shoes that provide good construction, shock absorption and foot stability. Also, make sure that there is a thumbnail’s width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. People who run up to 10 miles per week should consider replacing their shoes every 9 to 12 months, as 60 percent of a shoe’s shock absorption is lost after 250 to 500 miles of use. Also, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that allow you to move freely and easily release body heat. When exercising in cold weather, dress in removable layers.
- Take your time. During strength training, move through the full range of motion with each repetition. Breathe regularly to help lower your blood pressure and increase blood supply to the brain.
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Drink one pint of water 15 minutes before you start exercising and another pint after you cool down. Have a drink of water every 20 minutes or so while you exercise.
- Cool down. Make cooling down the final phase of your exercise routine. It should take twice as long as the warm up. Slow your motions and lessen the intensity of your movements for at least 10 minutes before you stop completely. This phase of a safe exercise program should conclude when your skin is dry and you have cooled down.