Regular exercise can help you feel less short of breath, improve strength and increase energy. But not doing it properly can result in long term injury. Here are some tips to avoid injury while exercising:
Drink fluids throughout the day
Drink at least 8 cups of water daily regardless of activity, unless otherwise specified by your physician. With exercise, add an additional 2 cups in the half hour before and after the activity. Consume 6-12 oz. of water or sports drink every 30 minutes with aerobic exercise lasting longer than 30 minutes. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which promote dehydration.
Eat throughout the day
It is important to maintain a healthy, appropriate diet when regularly exercising. Skipping meals or eating not enough for the purpose of weight loss can increase the risk of injury during exercise. To improve performance eat a small, carbohydrate-rich snack (i.e. fruit, yogurt, granola, and energy bars) 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to exercising.
Warm up and cool down. Always begin and end your exercise sessions with 3-5 minutes of activity similar to the exercise you will be doing but at a lower intensity. This will get your muscles, heart, and lungs ready for the activity. The same should be done at the end of the activity.
Stretch after you exercise
Stretching cold muscles prior to exercise can actually increase the risk of injury during exercise. While it is important to warm up prior to exercise, holding long stretches will increase the risk of muscle related injuries. Stretches should be held comfortably for 30-45 seconds with no bouncing, and should be performed following appropriate cool down.
Wear appropriate clothing and shoes
Select clothing that will allow heat to escape from your skin while exercising. Loose-fitting, breathable clothing will assist in this. Moisture wicking materials are commonly available and further assist in removing sweat and keeping your body temperature down.
Light colored clothing will also help prevent excessive heat build-up while exercising in the sun. Light-weight, breathable shoes are ideal for running and walking. Shoes with more significant ankle support are required for activities that involve jumping and quick turning, where the potential for ankle injury is greater.
Exercise at the right time of day
As a general rule, avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest part of the day, which is typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you will be exercising in the heat, be sure to drink enough water and use sunscreen made for sports activities.
This information has been approved by Josh Fruchtman, MPT (May 2012).