Exercise can bring you a significant number of positive health benefits. From weight loss to disease prevention to improved mood, exercise does it all.
No matter what type of training or workout you do, however, there's always a chance that you could injure your joints and muscles. Prevention is key to avoiding injuries – and may speed up your recovery if you have minor injuries as well.
Here are some things you can do to prevent joint and muscle injury before and during your workout.
1. Strengthen Muscles
Strengthening and developing the muscles around your joints can help reduce your chances of injury. For instance, if you're trying to prevent knee strain, exercises such as calf raises, hamstring curls, and step-ups can help strengthen your knees. Developing strong quadriceps is also crucial in preventing knee injuries.
Experts suggest concentrating on bodyweight exercises first before moving on to machines or free weights.
2. Warming Up
You've probably heard about the importance of properly warming up before exercise. There are a lot of reasons for it - including the fact that exercising with stiff muscles exacerbates joint pain.
Focus on completing a full-body warmup before your workout, including movements that energize your ball-and-socket joints such as hip and arm circles.
Fitness experts also say it's a good idea to do warm-up routines that mimic your full workout, such as doing squats before weight lifting or jogging lightly in place before a run.
3. Always Be Mindful
Almost every sport has moves that put joints at risk – even yoga. That said, it's important to concentrate on using your muscles, not your joints, when participating in any fitness activity.
Be aware of any joint pain during your workout; ignoring that pain may lead to chronic issues and injuries. Certain yoga poses can cause knee and wrist injuries if practitioners aren't careful. The key, as in any workout routine, is to avoid trying to do too much, too soon.
4. Watch What You Eat
Did you know that certain foods can lower inflammation, including in your joints and muscles? Foods like tart cherries, nuts, dark leafy greens (such as kale) and fatty fish such as salmon have anti-inflammatory qualities. Spices like turmeric and ginger are also helpful in lowering inflammation.
Try incorporating these foods in your diet and limiting the amounts of food you eat that cause inflammation, such as dairy, gluten and sugar.
5. Break Up Your Workouts
If you suffer from joint pain, it's often helpful to alternate muscle groups while working out instead of training them together. Don't focus only on upper or lower body exercises for too long before switching to another muscle group. Instead, break it up. For example, you could do a set of arm curls and then do a set of squats.
Not sure how to get started? Download our free two weeks workout guide for a gentle cardio workout that's easy on joints.