Tips for Injury Prevention:
Keep Your Bones and Joints Safe When Starting a Fitness Routine-
It’s that time of year again when we’re all dusting off our bikes, putting on our running shoes and vowing to be bathing suit ready for the beach. But are we keeping our bone and joint health in mind when we engage in physical activity? “The bone is a living organism,” says North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr. Andrew Goodwillie, and physical fitness promotes bone and joint health. He recommends some steps you can take to safely begin a physical fitness routine.
STEP ONE: EVALUATE YOUR BONE STRENGTH
Fifty million Americans have osteoporosis. While osteoporosis affects both men and women, it is more common in women, especially after menopause when women rapidly lose bone mass. Dr. Goodwillie explains bone density as “the qualitative measure of bone health…as you age, bones become weaker.” So, it is important for you to know your bone status and your risk factors for exercise-induced injury. For example, people who have had fractures and with lower than average body weight are more susceptible to injury. Those over 65 or post-menopausal are recommended to get bone density tests regularly.
The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to promote healthy ligaments, tendons and bones, including:
- Consume 1000 milligrams of calcium daily, preferably from food sources
- Take 400-800 units of vitamin D per day (depending on your doctor’s suggestions)
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake
- Quit smoking – it decreases bone density
STEP TWO: START SLOWLY
Dr. Goodwillie suggests integrating physical activity gradually into your daily life before starting an exercise program. Being active before you commit to a workout plan makes it more sustainable. We all have busy lives and making time for fitness can be a challenge. But, it is important that you make physical activity part of your routine.
Here are some ways you can easily add activity into your daily life:
- Make play dates with other parents that involve an activity for yourself and the kids
- Plan walking lunches or meetings at work
- Do sit-ups while watching television
- Do chores or yard work, like gardening
- Don’t just lay out at the beach, take time to walk a mile
- Take the stairs over the elevator or escalator
- Park farther away from stores, so you have to walk more
- Sit on a yoga ball or high stool at work over a chair that is not ideal for posture
STEP THREE: TRANSITION INTO FITNESS
Make sure that you always stretch regularly before and after workouts, especially when you first begin your program. Dr. Goodwillie also warns not to overuse previously injured body bones or joints as this may limit the ability for future exercise.
Dr. Goodwillie also suggests low-impact exercise to decrease impact loading (putting too much weight or pressure onto one bone or joint) and reduce the risk of injury and fracture. For example, if you are worried about injury and want to run, do so in the water. “Water is great for joints,” says Dr. Goodwillie, because water counteracts the effects of your body’s weight on your muscles and joints. Other examples of low-impact exercise are the recumbent bike, yoga, the elliptical, and walking on even surfaces. Low-impact exercise is especially helpful for those with mild osteoarthritis (a degenerative condition that causes pain associated with movement).
Here are some tips on how to exercise safely:
- Try yoga as part of your routine to increase stretching time
- Avoid getting straight on a Stairmaster or treadmill- where the foot is coming off the ground, as it can be impact loading on your joints
- Engage in light cardiovascular exercise for at least twenty minutes as a warm up
- Maintain your posture
- When stretching, focus on your legs, including quadriceps and hamstring stretches and focus on the backs of your calves, as these parts are easily injured.
Keeping your bones and joints healthy and happy will ensure that you can enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle for years to come. Get started today! Consult your primary care physician if you have concerns about your bone and joint health, before starting a fitness regimen. If you’d like to learn more about bone health and related conditions, such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, and osteoarthritis, you can check out our specialty programs or ask a question at our resource center.