June 10, 2009
Staying Safe While Staying Active
By Dr. John Nicholson,
Aiken Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Center
Augusta, GA-Whether it's biking through downtown Aiken, hiking in Hitchcock Woods or enjoying an afternoon ride on horseback, the beautiful weather is encouraging more and more people of all ages to head outdoors and get active.
But sometimes exercise can lead to pain and injury, especially if you're older or unused to regular activity. Taking some extra care during exercise and making sure to immediately treat any activity-related injuries can help ensure that you stay healthy and are ready to hit the trails again the next day.
The Aiken Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Center offers the following tips on staying safe while staying active:
Get going, but get real. Quality of life is directly related to your physical abilities, and how well you maintain these abilities. But it's important that you respect your body's limitations. Even if you used to run everyday or take step classes three times a week, if you're older or haven't been active recently, recognize that you need to learn your body for this season. Start slow and build up your activity levels.
Be modest. Modest exercise is worth it, so incorporate activity into your daily life whenever you can. Just walking at a moderate pace improves cardiac health, bone density, glycemic control and much, much more. So next time, park in that "miles-away" parking space or choose the stairs instead of the elevator.
Take a dip. Pool-based exercise, also known as aquatics, is a great way to begin an exercise program and is easier on the joints since the buoyancy of the water makes you lighter.
Remember, it's not a diet, it's healthy eating. Successful weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. It's a gradual process based on healthy foods, reduced portions and discipline-simple, and something we can all work on.
Give your feet a hand. A knowledgeable athletic shoe seller is pure gold. After all, top-of-the-line shoes cost less than your medical insurance deductible.
Listen to your body. As we age, warming up becomes even more important, partly because it's a good opportunity to assess how your body is doing. Pay more attention to those little discomforts, and slow down or stop if they get worse, even if they're still tolerable-it's safer to stop and try again another day. And if these same problems keep occurring or if you experience a lingering decrease in ability, see your doctor.
R-I-C-E your injuries. Remember R-I-C-E if you experience a minor injury:
In certain cases, don't wait and see. If you experience severe pain, severe swelling, any numbness or weakness or loss of consciousness, see your doctor immediately.
- Rest. Resting now will help you return to activity more quickly than trying to "walk it off."
- Ice. Ice packs help with pain relief and swelling for acute injuries like sprains. Continue to use ice as long as swelling remains. Chronic or overuse injuries, like tennis elbow, can actually benefit from heat, which helps relax stiff, sore muscles and joints, but you may want to consult your physician before applying heat to an injury.
- Compression. ACE wraps are helpful in reducing swelling and providing support. However, they can be trickier to apply than you think and are better placed by an experienced trainer, physical therapist or physician.
- Elevation. Although elevation is the last part of the acronym R-I-C-E, it actually should be one of the first things you do. Elevation helps minimize painful swelling, and is more urgent than ice or compression.
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