Fitness is an important part of any well-rounded life. Not only does it keep people of all ages in good health, but it can combat stress and bring groups together. Yet as beneficial as a fitness regimen can be, there is always some risk of injury. A 2012 survey from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System found that injuries while using exercise equipment jumped 45 percent between 2007 and 2010.
"Gym injuries have increased 35% in recent years."
That's one reason why the National Safety Council uses September 24 to observe Family Health and Fitness Day USA - part of fitness is keeping safety a top priority. The next time you're working out, follow these six handy tips:
1. Always stretch
One of the most effective ways to prevent injuries is to stretch before any exercise or fitness routine. But just as important, you should stretch afterward; that way, you'll gain extra flexibility because your muscles are warmed up. It's important to hold each stretch as bouncing can lead to injury. Also, take your time with each stretch, and don't bend right into it. Be deliberate with your movements, and once you've hit your stride, hold each pose for at least 30 seconds.
2. Warm up, cool down
Just as pre- and post-stretching is essential, so too is the warm up and cool down process. You warm up to prepare your body for the strain and impact to follow, be it running or lifting weights. But you need the cool down to slow your body down, as it were, to ensure normal breathing and the proper heart rate. Make time for 5 to 10 minutes of cool down activity every time, and don't overdo it. Your cool down should always include low-level aerobic activity and should be followed by stretching.
3. Avoid the heat
Even with the increased number of injuries within gyms, these facilities are still a great place to pursue your fitness goals. On the one hand, you can avoid the harsh temperatures of the outside, especially during the final throes of summer. It's easy to overheat when exercising, and it's essential that you keep cool and steer clear of temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in a gym, heat stroke is still a possibility, so always drink plenty of water and wear clothes that can breathe.
4. Never ignore pain
Most people exercise as a means of improving themselves, and that often means pushing through a certain level of discomfort. But you shouldn't ignore pain during your regimen, and this could be a sign of an injury or some serious underlying condition. If you feel lightheaded, can't breathe or feel sharp pain in your joints or muscles, stop exercising right away. Sometimes all it takes is a quick break before you get back to it. If your condition doesn't improve, you may need to schedule a doctor's appointment right away.
5. Watch yourself
In your average gym setting, there might be a dozen or so people performing various exercises. That much activity carries its own set of risks, and it's important to be mindful of your settings. Make sure you know who is around you wherever you work out and to communicate with someone if you think there might be an issue. At the same time, watch for clutter, like other people's personal items or moved equipment. Don't get so focused on your workout that you might slip or fall .