Participating in regular physical activities such as sports is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Current research indicates that exercise and involvement in sports can help you lose weight, stay healthy and even improve your mental state. However, participation in any sport or physical activity also carries the potential for injury in children and adults.
Before you or your children participate in any exercise or sport, make sure you take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries. Here are some easy steps you can take to prevent the most common injuries.
It is important that you do some type of aerobic exercise prior to participating in your sport of choice. A proper warm-up will increase the flow of blood and oxygen to your muscles, which heats the muscle tissue. Warm muscles are less prone to become strained and irritated.
Tips for Warming Up
Start slowly - Begin at a slow pace and ease into your warm-up routine. Walking slowly and moving your arms a little is a great way to start your warm-up. If you're more advanced, take a brisk walk before running, do some jumping jacks before playing tennis, etc.
Allow enough time - Spend approximately five to fifteen minutes warming up your body and muscles. Do anything that feels right for your body, as long as it increases your heart rate and blood flow.
Follow with stretching - After you have increased the blood flow to your muscles make sure you adequately stretch them by following the next set of tips.
Once you've completed your warm-up, it's critical that you stretch all of the muscles that you will be using. Stretching actually lengthens your muscles, making them less prone to injury.
Tips for Stretching
Avoid pain - Never hold a painful stretch. Stretch a particular muscle just to the point below where you feel pain. If you do feel pain, back off a little and hold the stretch at that point. It should feel slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. Ease into your stretches slowly and gently before holding.
Hold your stretch - Hold your stretches for approximately 30 seconds to one minute. It takes time to lengthen muscle tissue safely. Stretch appropriate muscles - It's a good to idea to stretch as many muscles as possible. However, make sure you focus on the muscles and range of motion that you will be using during your sport activity. For example, if you will be playing soccer, focus on your leg muscles.
Never bounce - Bouncing during a stretch can injure your muscles. Simply hold the stretch in one place for at least 30 seconds.
After you have participated in your sport, you should stretch the muscles that you just worked. Muscles have a tendency to tighten during aerobic exercise, so stretching after you have exercised will leave your muscles more flexible and limber and less prone to injury.
Don't Overdo It
While sports and exercise can be both fun and healthy, don't overdo it. Listen to your body. When you feel pain, stop. When you're gasping for breath, stop. If you want to increase the amount of time you spend exercising or participating in a sport, increase the time gradually by approximately 10 percent per week.
Play It Safe
Being safe and understanding the rules of the sport are particularly important for children and adolescents. Make sure you and your children follow these guidelines to prevent any minor or serious sports injuries.
Wear Protective Equipment - This will vary depending on your sport of choice. If you're playing soccer, wear shin guards, if you're playing football, wear a helmet, etc.
Understand the Equipment - If your sport requires using different items, make sure you know how they function. For example, when skiing, know what size skis you should use and how to adjust the settings.
Select the Proper Shoes - Wear appropriate shoes for your sport or activity and replace them when they're worn or damaged.
Take Lessons - If you don't completely understand your sport, take lessons or ask an expert for advice. Using proper form can help to prevent many "overuse" sports injuries.
Strengthening your muscles will increase your muscle strength and mass and help to protect your joints, tendons and ligaments when you participate in many of the aerobic sports activities. Sit-ups, leg lifts, and push-ups are a great way to start strengthening your muscles. Start slowly and gradually and consult a professional to know what level of strength training is appropriate for your body.
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