Exercise recommendations include 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly. You should also work in strength training at least twice per week for all of your muscle groups.
About 80% of Americans don’t hit those weekly exercise guidelines.
No matter where you are in your exercise journey, successful fitness starts with safety. Working out safely is important to preventing injury and getting the most health value out of your exercise.
We break it down into seven tips to help you break a sweat without breaking a bone or causing other serious injuries.
1. Start Where You Are
You’re revved up and ready to reach some major exercise goals. Maybe you’re ready to crush your PR for running a mile or you want to double your bench press weight.
In that excitement, it’s tempting to go all-in with an intense workout routine.
But if you’re just starting out with a regular fitness routine, pushing too hard too fast can be dangerous.
Consider your current fitness level and physical abilities before you exercise. Choose an exercise routine that’s suitable for that fitness level.
Gradually ramp up your exercise intensity as you build your strength and endurance. If you want to run a 5k, you might start by walking quickly. Then, you might add in short jogging periods during your walk.
Eventually, you can work up to running the full distance.
The slow approach helps you prevent injury. It can also help you stick with your routine without getting frustrated.
2. Learn the Correct Form
Using the proper form is important in preventing injuries. That goes for all types of exercise, but some have more potential for injury than others.
You might experience a hyperextension injury to your elbow, which you can view here, with an improper weightlifting form. You might also strain your back or injury other parts of your body with bad form.
Focus on developing the proper form for every move you do from the beginning. Learning the moves the correct way makes them second nature.
Hiring a personal trainer to teach you the correct form is the easiest way to do this. The trainer can personalize the instruction to the types of exercises you want to do.
You can also watch videos online from trusted fitness professionals to see the proper way to perform different moves.
3. Prepare Your Body
In your excitement to boost your heart rate, don’t forget to warm up your body first. A brief 5 to 10-minute warm-up session slowly raises your heart rate and gets the blood pumping. It also prepares the muscles for the upcoming exercise.
Gentle aerobic exercise is a good way to warm up. You might walk a few laps around the gym before you hop on the elliptical for your workout.
When you’re done, transitional your body back to a slower pace with a cool-down session. Gradually slow down your activity level during this time.
End your workout session with about 5 minutes of stretching while your muscles are still warm. Avoid bouncing as you stretch, which could damage your muscle tissue.
4. Wear Appropriate Gear
The proper workout gear protects you and supports your body to cut down on injury risks.
Athletic shoes support your feet and give you traction to prevent slips and falls. If you do a specific exercise, such as running, you may want to choose shoes designed for that activity to provide the best support.
Wear workout clothing that lets you move well to avoid restricted movement. The clothing should also breathe well to keep you cool and let your sweat wick away from your body.
Consider any special gear or safety equipment needed for specific activities. Biking is safest when you wear a helmet. Some sports may require a mouthguard or pads on the body.
5. Beware of Risks
An awareness of potential risks for your workout routine helps you take a proactive approach to avoid them.
Understand the risks of different exercises. In weightlifting, you could drop the weights on your chest if you don’t have a spotter. You could drop it on your toe if you don’t use the proper form or use too much weight.
With cycling, you can crash your bike if you drive on rough terrain or hit something in your path.
Take steps to avoid those risks each time you exercise. There’s still the risk of injury, but looking out for those risks can better prepare you to avoid them.
If you exercise outdoors, consider weather elements. In extreme heat, exercise early in the morning or late in the event at the coolest times. Drink lots of water to keep your body from getting dehydrated.
In cold weather, wear layers to protect your skin and keep your muscles warm. Exposed skin can get frostbite, so wearing hats, gloves, and other protective gear is important.
6. Change Up Your Routine
Doing the same exercise routine gets boring and may increase your chances of injury.
You may increase your chances of overuse injuries if you do the same moves all the time. If your only exercise is swimming, you might put a lot of strain on your arms and shoulders. If you only run, you might experience issues with your feet or ankles.
You get more fitness benefits from a varied workout program. It helps develop all parts of your body instead of the same muscles every time.
7. Listen to Your Body
Your own body is your best guide for working out safely. It’s natural for exercise to feel difficult. If you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not growing stronger.
Your lungs might ache. Your legs might feel sore. You may feel worn out.
But if you feel actual pain instead of discomfort, slow down or stop your workout. It could be a sign of an injury. Pushing yourself to continue when your injured could cause a more severe problem.
You know what’s normal and natural for your body. If something feels really wrong, don’t ignore your body’s warnings.
If the pain is severe or it doesn’t go away, check with your doctor.
Enjoy Successful Fitness Safely
Get into a successful fitness routine by focusing on safety first. Paying attention to your body, knowing your limits, and taking precautions can help you avoid injury.
Explore our Lifestyle section for more useful information on diet and exercise for a healthier you.