Exercising Safely

Taking all sensible precautions to avoid injury from exercise

Each type of exercise has its own potential hazards and may require the use of specialized equipment. Set yourself realistic goals to avoid overexertion or injury. If you are not fit or have exercised very little, begin slowly and build up gradually. Sudden strenuous exercise could result in injury (see Sports injuries). You may need advice from your doctor before you start exercising (see Taking regular exercise).

Specialized equipment and protection

Some activities, such as walking, need little or no specialized equipment, but equipment is essential for sports such as cycling. Proper footwear and clothing is important; for example, poorly fitting shoes may aggravate hip and back problems. If you are exercising outside, it is important to protect your skin and eyes from the sun (see Safety in the sun). If you are using exercise equipment at home or at a gym, follow the instructions carefully.

Good exercise habits

Develop a routine of warming up and cooling down. If you notice signs of overexertion, you should stop at once. Serious warning symptoms include:

  • Chest pain.

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or arms.

  • Awareness of an irregular heartbeat (palpitations).

  • Nausea.

  • Severe shortness of breath.

  • Dizziness and light-heartedness.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor.

Dangers of overtraining

Exercising too often or too hard, which is often called overtraining, seems to undo the benefits of moderate exercise. The most common injuries due to overtraining include severe muscle stiffness, joint sprains, and stress fractures.

You may need to make small adjustments to include physical activity in your life, but take care not to become obsessive about exercise.

Health Action: Warming up and Cooling Down in your Exercise Routine

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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