Resolve to Avoid Injury When Exercising This Year

Of the millions of New Year's resolutions made each year, perhaps none is more repeated than the resolution to get in better shape. Each year, millions of people resolve to shed a few extra pounds or simply get healthier, with varying degrees of success.

One of the ways to ensure the resolve to get healthier is successful is to exercise safely. Veteran athletes and seasoned professional trainers all note the importance of safety when it comes to exercise. Simply diving right into exercise can be a recipe for disaster, often leading to injury, especially for those people new to exercise or returning after a long layoff.

For those who have resolved to get in better shape this season, consider the following exercise safety tips.

* Don't push it. The body responds differently to exercise as it ages, and many people who were once exercise afficionados but stopped regularly exercising could likely make the mistake that they can still exercise as hard as they did in their youth. However, pushing it after a long layoff is potentially dangerous and could result in a number of injuries. While you might one day be able to return to form, initially it's best to take it easy. Stop exercising immediately if you begin to experience any of the following symptoms:

- Dizziness

- Nausea

- Cold sweats

- Muscle cramps

- Pain or pressure in the chest

(particularly left-chest or mid-chest)

- Joint pain

* Maintain proper breathing or cease exercising if you can't. Whenever exercising, you should be able to walk without gasping for breath. If you cannot breathe properly, stop exercising immediately. Once your system has rebounded and you begin to feel better, if you're going to return to your exercise regimen, simply tone it down, performing each exercise more slowly.

* Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated throughout an exercise routine will increase flexibility and replace the water you lose by sweating. While some might feel this will counteract any weight loss, losing water weight is not the type of weight loss you should be aiming for. Be sure to drink lots of water before, during and after workouts.

* Remember the wisdom of Mom and Dad. Nearly everyone who ever went to the beach as a child recalls Mom and Dad advising them to stay out of the water after eating. That same advice you heard as a child is still applicable today as an adult. While it's acceptable to go for a light walk after a small meal, avoid strenuous exercise for at least 2 hours after eating a big meal.

* Wear appropriate attire. When working out, proper attire isn't whatever looks good on you. It's important to purchase sneakers that support weight-bearing activities and tops that promote movement but aren't too loose. If jogging outdoors, be sure to wear a knit cap in colder weather or a baseball cap in warmer temperatures. Both of these will help you maintain a proper body temperature and ward off harmful side effects such as cold, flu or sunburn.

* Stretch, stretch, stretch. Professional athletes make their living with their bodies, and they stretch extensively before each and every game. Just because you don't earn a ballplayer's paycheck doesn't mean you can avoid stretching. Stretching helps prevent muscle pulls, strains and other injuries, so make sure an adequate stretching routine is a part of your workout.

* Consult or hire a professional. Those who have had an extensive layoff from exercise might want to employ a personal trainer, at least until they get comfortable with a routine. In fact, many fitness clubs offer a handful of free personal training sessions to new members to ensure all members start off safe and avoid injury. Take advantage of such sessions if they're available. If not, hire one of the club's personal trainers, even if it's only for a few sessions, at the onset of your routine.

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