We all strive to have balance in our daily schedule. But what about in our muscles? As an orthopaedic surgeon
, I often treat injuries caused by working out too hard, too quickly and not following proper techniques. The key to preventing long-term injuries is balance—balance among our muscle groups and balance between weight training and aerobic fitness.
Here are four things you can do to improve your balance:
1. Strengthen your core
Strengthening your core is one of the most important things you can do to improve your balance and help prevent injuries. For example, the most common injuries I see among runners are knee related. When runners become fatigued, their bodies lose their proper form and balance, causing their hips to sway improperly. This imbalance places more pressure on the knee caps while increasing wear and tear on the surrounding cartilage.
A stable solution exists in your core muscle group. Strengthening abdominal muscles will stabilize your body during workouts to reduce pressure on your knees and hips. A strong core also will reduce the chance of straining your back while working in the yard or cleaning the house.
Effective abdominal crunches involve weight resistance, such as holding weights. Keep in mind everybody’s body distributes weight differently. You don’t need to have a finely chiseled six-pack to have a strong core.
2. Mix cardio with weight training
Balance between weight training and aerobic fitness also is very important to reduce the risk of injuries. Lifting weights is good for building muscle strength but doesn’t improve your body’s endurance. Long-distance running is a great exercise to build endurance and lose weight but doesn’t stabilize your muscle groups.
That leaves us with a cardio regimen known as cross training or cross fitness. Cross training combines a variety of aerobic exercises in one routine to effectively balance your body’s muscle groups. Wind sprints across a tennis court, jumping jacks and jumping rope are ideal cross-training exercises. Adding weights such as dumb bells will enhance results. I recommend doing cardio exercises three days a week and weight training two days a week.
Other organized cross-training programs that have become popular in recent years such as boot camp, CrossFit and P90X combine cardio workouts and strength-training exercises in a time-efficient format that produces quick results. These high-energy activities are fun and efficient but also are fairly high-impact workouts. When participating in these types of programs, you should know your body’s limits to avoid injuries. Don’t overwork your body when it’s not in peak condition.
Low-impact exercises will provide great results with a much lower chance of injury. If you have arthritis, low-impact exercises such as aqua jogging, swimming, elliptical trainer, and riding a bicycle will provide both aerobic fitness and strength training while decreasing some of the arthritic pain.
3. Lift with your legs — one at a time
Too often we neglect our leg muscles and focus on our upper bodies. However, a strong lower body is more vital to the stabilization of bones and joints including hips and knees that experience more issues as we age.
While performing legs lifts, exercise one leg at a time to ensure each leg pushes the same amount of weight with every repetition. The same logic can be applied to arms.
4. Listen to your body and exercise safely
Safety first is the most important advice as you begin your new workout routine. Our bodies are remarkably adaptable to new pressures, but it takes time. Don’t overwork yourself by lifting too much or running too fast after your muscles have been inactive for a long time. Be honest with yourself about what your body can handle when starting out, especially if you’re overweight.
Listen to your body. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. If you feel a lingering pain with a particular exercise, back off and try something different. Adequate rest is necessary for proper healing, but you don’t want to stay out of the game for so long that you have no desire to go back in. If your pain continues for 10-14 days, even after rest and changing your routine, it’s a good idea to see a physician or physical therapist.
Article originally posted on WilliamsonMedicalCenter.org.
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Tags: christopher stark, exercise, orthopedics, sports injuries, Long-term injuries, Physical therapy, Strength training