Health Beat

Playing It Safe: Exercise Do's and Don'ts

by Lynn Olison

Summer's coming. Dig out the basketball, dust off that tennis racket and clear the cobwebs from your rollerblades. Then take a moment to plan a safe workout, to prevent exercise injury and enjoy your summer sports.

Cindy Chang, head team physician for intercollegiate sports, recommends the following do's and don'ts for exercise safety.


DO warm up and cool down before and after a workout or sports activity.

Start with 10 minutes of gentle stretching movements such as arm circles, side bends or calf stretches. Then mimic your exercise activity at a slower pace.

For example, walk slowly before power walking, or jog before running. Hit the tennis or racquet ball with controlled, easy strokes before bringing out your power serve. Cool down by decreasing your exercise pace. Finish with a slow stretching routine (no bouncing) to help increase your flexibility and prevent muscle soreness.


DON'T increase your workout or activity level too fast or too soon. When you feel that you are ready to progress in your workout, you can increase the number of sessions per week, the duration of the workout or the intensity level of the workout.

But don't increase all at once. Chang finds most injuries occur when beginning a program and doing too much, too soon. A good rule of thumb is to start at three times per week with at least one day of recovery in between.


DO add strength training with weights to your exercise regimen. A moderate program of resistance training, done two to three times per week, can strengthen muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. Strength training will help protect your joints from injury, while increasing lean tissue, metabolism, balance and stability.


DON'T ignore pain. "Pain is the body's response to injury or overuse," cautions Chang. "Don't ignore it. And don't make the mistake of trying to push through pain. Listen to your body."

As you get accustomed to exercise, you will be better able to distinguish between soreness and pain. Soreness may develop one to two days after a workout and dissipate 24 to 48 hours later. Pain can come right away and persist with everything you do.


DO take an active approach to treating an injury. Follow the RICE principle:

* R: Rest the injured area.

* I: Ice is a pain inhibitor. Always use ice first, as it decreases inflammation and has few side effects. Apply for 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off.

* C: Compression--use an ace wrap to prevent swelling. Wrap toward the heart.

* E: Elevate the injured area above heart level. If pain or swelling worsens after 24 hours, see your physician.

Chang recommends using caution when using any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen (brand names Aleve, Nuprin or Motrin). "People are overlapping the use of these medications, thinking they are different, but may be taking too much without realizing it." Only one of these over-the-counter anti-inflammatories should be taken at one time, as directed, with food to prevent stomach irritation.


DON'T settle for inferior equipment. A good pair of shoes is the most important piece of athletic equipment you can buy. Be sure the shoe is fitted to you and that it is the proper shoe style for the activity. Pay attention to your shoes and repair or replace them as needed. And, of course, remember safety equipment such as helmets when bicycling or skating and eye protection for racquetball.


With these do's and don'ts--and a water bottle--well in hand, you are ready to start the summer. Let the games begin!


For more help...

* "The Thrill of Exercise...And the Agony of Injury": Calympic workshop with Cindy Chang on how to prevent injuries and knowing when to use ice, see your doctor or buy new shoes; plus, how to take care of some common exercise injuries. Thursday, June 13, noon to 1 p.m. Call Health*Matters to register, 643-4646.

* Educational Materials from Health*Matters: "Strength and Flexibility" includes descriptions and illustrations on individual strength training and stretching routines. "Exercise Injuries--Prevention and Self-Care" describes common sports-related ailments, prevention and self-care tips. Call Health*Matters, 643-4646, to request.

* Two excellent books: "The Wellness Guide to Lifelong Fitness" from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter ($29.95) and "Stretching" by Bob Anderson ($13). Both books are available in local bookstores and the University Health Services' Self-Care Library, open by appointment in the summer. Call 643-4646.

* Physical Therapy consultations by UHS physical therapists. Thirty-minute consultations (about $35) are available year-round. Call 642-0607. During the academic year, 10-minute, free consultations by appointment at Recreational Sports Facility, call 643-8032.


Lynn Olison, an exercise physiologist, is a consultant with Health*Matters' Calympics program.


The Health Beat column will take a break until September.


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