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Avoiding Injuries During Exercise

Safety Measures and First Aid Treatment

Walking is practically injury-free. The only problems you might incur include corns, calluses, strains, and sprains. The occasional corn or callus can be taken care of with over-the-counter medications. However, if calluses hurt so much that they prevent you from walking comfortably, see a podiatrist. Strains and sprains are more common among joggers than walkers. The tendon that runs from the calf to the foot is the most common trouble spot. See Muscle Cramps and Strains, and Sprains and Breaks for details on treating such injuries.

Here are some tips you can follow to prevent injury:

  • Walk or jog in your target heart rate zone
  • Walk or run with a buddy
  • Vary your path and routine
  • Exercise in the daytime for safety's sake. You'll also be seen by cars and bicycles!
  • Avoid traffic-congested streets
  • Carry a water bottle, and drink plenty of liquid
  • Dress in layers in cold weather. When you get warm, you can peel off a layer and tie it around your waist without missing a beat.
  • Wear loose clothing in hot weather.
  • Walk in an air-conditioned mall if the weather is over 90 degrees.
  • Make sure you warm up and stretch before beginning your walk or jog. This keeps muscles supple and flexible.
First Things First

Since people started choosing running as an exercise of choice, the number of leg injuries has soared. Shin splints, fractures, and tendonitis are common among enthusiastic beginners who leap too far too fast.

Exercise Choice 2: Swimming

Swimming (without sharks) is a good exercise for anyone who is recovering from a sports injury. The water keeps your body buoyant and there's no danger of impact. But there are a few things to remember to prevent injuries during swimming:

  • Wear well-fitting goggles. Exposure to chlorine can burn your eyes. Goggles that are too tight can cause pressure to build up between your eyes and the lens—resulting in a black eye!
  • Put some conditioner in your hair before taking the plunge. The harsh chemicals in the pool can harm hair follicles; the conditioner acts like an “invisible bathing cap.”
  • Avoid swimmer's shoulder. The repetitive motion of arm over head causes irritation in the shoulder, even though you're in water. The best advice is to start slow. Tread water for five minutes before beginning your swim. Use gentle upward motions, and the moment you feel a cramp, stop for the day.
  • Listen to your body. If you start getting “goose bumps” and your lips are turning blue, it's time to stop. You might not freeze to death, but you could be ripe for an attack of cold or flu germs. Keep a towel nearby to wrap around you as soon as you get out of the water.

Exercise Choice 3: Aerobics Classes

Ten years ago, aerobics classes were all the rage. You could walk into any gym and hear the music blasting, the feet stomping, and the instructor screaming. Today, we know better. The motto for aerobics is no longer “No pain, no gain.” Instead, the refrain of the '90s is “Go slow.”

Low-impact classes have taken the place of high-impact classes. The difference? High-impact workouts include moves and jumps that take both feet off the floor. Low-impact aerobics, on the other hand, use moves in which one foot remains on the floor at all times—which means less stress and less risk of injury.

The following list gives you some safety tips to follow when you're doing aerobics:

  • Go at your own pace. Even if the rest of the class is leaping four feet in the air, stay put if you feel you're overexerting yourself. You don't have to be a champion your first class. Follow your heart—your target heart rate zone, that is.
  • Drink water. Slip out of class to use the water fountain if you need a drink. Don't wait for the class to stop. You might be dehydrated by then.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Wearing properly fitting sports bras, easy fitting leotards, non-tugging jock straps, and shorts that stay put, can all make a class more pleasurable (instead of an uncomfortable torture).
  • Get the right pair of shoes. Walking shoes just aren't going to work for an aerobics class. Ditto tennis shoes. The wrong shoe can translate into sprains and cramps. If you want to avoid having a closet full of sports shoes, opt for a pair of cross-trainers. Try them on with socks. Make sure they offer support without being too tight.

More on: First Aid

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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