Exercising regularly has a wide-range of benefits, but it’s important to workout safely to ensure you remain healthy and injury-free. Safety while working out, or at the gym, is largely about using common sense, understanding basic techniques, and listening to your body. Here are some tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable workout:
- Have a check-up: If you’re someone who hasn’t done much physical exercise in a while, it might be a good idea to have a check-up with your doctor or a physio to check you’re in good health, especially if you’ve been prone to injury in the past. Many local sports clubs and gyms can also offer tips about staying safe while exercising.
- Be aware of your body: Think about how the particular exercise is making you feel. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t carry on. Stop immediately and seek medical advice. And remember those all important rest days, as it’s essential to give your body time to recover between exercising.
- Warm up: Try slow stretches and go through the motions of your sport or activity before starting. It's important to gradually increase the heart rate and circulation before doing physical activity. This will also help to loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles to prevent injury. You should also cool down after exercising with slow stretching to bring everything back down to normal.
- Pace yourself: Don’t try and do too much too soon, especially if you’re new to exercising, or a beginner at the gym. The goal is to start slowly and build up your fitness level before you push yourself too hard. Keeping track of your progress or joining a fitness group can help you stay motivated and achieve your goals.
- Mix it up: Keep your workout varied with different sports and exercises to reduce the risk of overtraining and losing motivation. Cross-training gives the muscles you use in one sport or activity, the chance to recover while strengthening other parts of the body. This helps to boost all-round fitness and prevents injury.
- Strap it up: If a joint is prone to injury, you should consider strapping or taping it before exercising. If you have a recurring injury, it’s a good idea to see a physiotherapist to look at a program to strengthen the injured area. If you are experiencing pain, rest until the pain has gone.
- Stay hydrated: You can lose around one and a half litres of fluid for every hour of exercise, so drink water before, during, and after a session. Good hydration can improve recovery, minimise injury and cramping, and maximise performance.
- Check the weather: If exercising outside, whether it’s a fitness boot camp at the park or a bike ride, you should take it easier in hot weather. Wear clothing and sunscreen to protect yourself from the elements.
- Have the right technique: It’s important to know how to do an exercise properly, otherwise you could be doing something that doesn’t actually benefit you, or worse still, you could hurt yourself. Try to get the technique right from the beginning to ensure you are using your muscles correctly. Ask a personal trainer, or watch online videos to help you get it right. And then you can help others!
- Check your gear: Make sure your shoes and equipment fit properly and are right for the activity. Look after your equipment and check it regularly for safety.
If you do start to experience any pain whilst exercising, you should stop and see a GP or physio as soon as possible.