Regular exercise extends your life, improves your ability to do daily activity, enhances your mood and reduces your risk of chronic disease, notes MayoClinic.com. Although exercise can be life-enhancing, improper or sloppy execution can cause injury or medical complications. Follow specific safety guidelines to keep your experience with exercise positive and your body healthy.
For most people, regular, moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking and cycling, is safe. If you haven't exercised in a long time, are unsure of your health status or are pregnant, you should speak to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. For people with heart disease, asthma, lung disease, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease or arthritis, a pre-exercise consultation with your doctor is imperative. The American College of Sports Medicine also recommends you consult with your doctor prior to exercise if you are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 55. You are also at a greater health risk if you have a family history of heart disease before age 55. If you smoke, or just quit in the past 6 months, are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you also need to see your physician as a precaution before exercise.
Exercise increases your need for water, one of the most essential components of the human body. Failure to drink enough water can lead to lack of coordination, fatigue, failure to properly cool, heat stroke, cramping and loss of energy. You may develop debilitating cramps and lose energy. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water in the three hours prior to exercise. You should also drink about 8 ounces just before you work out or during the warmup. Every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, gulp down 7 to 10 ounces. After your workout, go for at least 8 ounces of water within 30 minutes. During the rest of the day, drink about 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during your workout. If you are an endurance athlete going longer than 90 minutes or if you sweat profusely in shorter workouts, hydrate with sports drinks that contain sodium and other electrolytes.
Injuries at the gym can be prevented if you take the time to learn proper form and technique for the exercises you do. If you are new to weightlifting, for example, consider investing in at least one personal training session to be coached on proper form. Improper form can lead to joint injuries and muscle pulls. Even experienced exercisers benefit from coaching prior to starting a new regimen. The growing popularity of workouts using equipment such as kettlebells, cables and strongman techniques raises the risk of injury. Consult a certified trainer or coach to learn the principles of the movements before trying them on your own.
Warmup and Cooldown
Every workout should include a warmup and cooldown. A warmup primes the cardiovascular and muscoskeletal systems for the stimulation of exercise. During exercise, a significant amount of blood is directed to working muscles. A cooldown helps facilitate the normal circulation of the blood to the heart. Without proper warmups and cooldowns, you are more vulnerable to muscle strain, dizziness and muscle soreness. A warmup can consist of light aerobic activity, such as marching in place or jogging on a treadmill. Including some joint-mobilization movements, such as hip and arm circles, is also an essential part of any warmup. A cooldown usually consists of lighter activity and some stretching. Make the warmup and cooldown last at least five minutes.
Start at Your Level
Enthusiasm about a new exercise program can cause you to do more than your body is ready for. You might become overheated or suffer from extreme soreness when doing too much too soon. If you haven't exercised in a while or are brand new to it, begin with just 15-minute bouts of exercise, suggests the Cleveland Clinic. Over the course of several weeks, extend the time you spend moving by three to five minutes each session until you reach about 30 to 40 minutes on most days. Even if you have taken just a few weeks off, dial back your intensity when you first come back to make up for the hiatus.