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Tips on excercising safely

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Wellness Zone with Phyllis Ogo Ogah

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Last week we talked about factors to consider before starting an exercise program.Today,we’ll be looking at  how to exercise safely.
Regular physical activity is vital for good health.  While there is a risk of injury with any type of physical activity, the benefits of staying active far outweigh the risks.
You can reduce your risk of exercise injury by:
Wearing the right shoes, gear and equipment
Drinking lots of water
Warming up and stretching.
Get expert opinion
You can obtain information and advice about exercise safety from your doctor, a sports medicine doctor, physiologist or an exercise physiologist or see a sporting association about sporting technique and equipment.
Listen to your body
Injuries are more likely if you ignore your body's signals of fatigue, discomfort and pain. Suggestions include:
Cross-train with other sports and exercises to reduce the risk of overtraining.
Make sure you have at least one recovery day, and preferably two, every week.
Exercise at an appropriate intensity for your fitness level. It takes time to increase your overall level of fitness. Training too hard or too fast is a common cause of injury.
Injuries need rest - trying to 'work through' the pain will cause more damage to soft muscle tissue and delay healing.
Stop exercising immediately
If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and seek medical help:
Feel discomfort or pain
Have chest pain or other pain that could indicate a heart attack, including pain in the neck and jaw, pain traveling down the arm or pain between the shoulder blades
Experience extreme breathlessness
Develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat during exercise.
As the name suggests, your warm-up (5-10 minutes) should gradually warm your muscles and body temperature.
The type of activity done in the warm-up should include major muscle groups that will be used in your sporting activity.
Your warm-up could begin with a low intensity activity such as brisk walking or jogging.
Stretching should be performed once the muscles have been warmed, as the stretching of cold muscles is less effective. It is also important to stretch after activity as well to assist recovery.
Cool down
To reduce muscle soreness and stiffness
In the last 5 minutes, slow down gradually to a light jog or brisk walk.
Finish off with 5-10 minutes of stretching (emphasize the major muscle groups you have used during your activity).
You can lose around one and a half liters of fluid for every hour of exercise. One of the first symptoms of dehydration is fatigue, which causes a significant drop in sporting performance. It may also make you susceptible to cramps, heat stress and heat stroke. Suggestions include:
Avoid starting exercise dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids for several hours prior to exercise.
If you are well hydrated you should be able to pass a good volume of clear urine in the hour before exercise.
Drink at least 500ml (2 cups) an hour before exercise.
Drink at least 150ml every 15 minutes during exercise.
During exercise take advantage of all breaks in play to drink up.
After exercise drink liberally to ensure you are fully re-hydrated.
You can ascertain whether you have drunk enough water by weighing yourself before and after exercise - a loss of one kilogram is equivalent to about one litre of lost fluid. Thirst is a clear indication that you need to drink.
Exercising in hot weather
Exercising in hot weather puts additional strain on your body. Heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke and sunstroke, occur when your body can't keep itself cool. Sweating isn't enough to cool your body - your body temperature rises, you may become ill. Symptoms of heat illness can include:
*General discomfort
Suggestions to avoid heat illnesses include:
Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes.
Protect yourself from the sun with clothing such as long-sleeved tops, full-length trousers, a hat and sunglasses or using an umbrella.
Exercise in the cooler parts of the day - preferably before dawn or after sunset.
Reduce your exercise intensity. Take frequent breaks and drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don't feel thirsty. If you have clear, pale urine, you are Probably drinking enough fluids.
Don't drink alcohol, tea or coffee before or after exercising, as these beverages promote fluid loss.
If you have travel led to a hotter climate, remember that it may take about 10 days of exercising before you fully acclimatise.
Exercising in cold weather
In cold weather, muscles are more susceptible to injuries. Suggestions include:
Wear appropriate warm clothing. Multiple layers of clothing trap more body heat than one bulky layer.
Devote more time to warming up and stretching before exercising and make sure you undertake a thorough cool-down.
Keep up your fluid intake, since cold weather prompts fluid loss.
Don't forget sun protection - it is possible to be sunburnt even in cold weather, especially at high altitudes or on clear days.
Wearing the right shoes, gear and equipment
Most sports and exercises rely on some type of equipment, such as shoes, bicycles or racquets. Protective equipment - such as mouthguards, shin pads and helmets - can significantly reduce the risk of injury by absorbing the impact of falls or collisions. Safety suggestions include:
If your sporting equipment is handheld, make sure you are using the right grip - for example, holding a tennis racquet the wrong way can increase your risk of tennis elbow (tendonitis).
Make sure your equipment is appropriate to your sport or activity and the size and age of the participant.
Wear appropriate shoes for your sport and replace them before they wear out.
Protective equipment should be worn during training, not just for competition and games.
Check equipment regularly and replace if worn out. If you are unsure how to maintain or check your equipment, consult with your coach or sporting association.
Injuries can also be caused by improper form or technique. Consult your gym instructor, coach, sporting association, exercise physiologist  for instruction on how to improve your sporting technique.


When developing an exercise plan, ensure you have a clear vision of what you want from excercise, develop a plan of action,and identify tools and support systems to put your plan into action.
Keep moving!

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