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Eight tips to avoid workout injuries

How to get fit without getting hurt
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

You've finally decided the time is right to get into shape or take your physical fitness to the next level. Eager to start seeing results, you jump into your new routine, feet first, only to be brought crashing down to earth with a workout injury.

Common workout injuries include sprained ankles, muscle strain, shoulder injuries, shin splints, runner's knee, wrist strain and tendonitis.

So why do workout injuries happen? Experts say there are many reasons.

Sometimes it's a matter of doing the right activity too much or too often; sometimes it's a matter of doing the right activity wrongly; and sometimes it's a matter of choosing the wrong activity for your particular body type or physical condition.

Don't get discouraged though. Experts who spoke to us shared tips on how to improve your workout and avoid some of the most common fitness injuries.

1. Ease into it

You've made up your mind to get fit; your head's in the right place and you are focused. If you are motivated, it's easy to throw yourself into it hard and fast, hitting the gym every day.

Sports physiotherapist Penny Porter says: "The key is to gradually build up your time and intensity".

She says as the weather warms up people decide that long runs are a great idea, despite not having done many for months - and that's where problems can start.

2. Know your body

It seems so basic, but experts say it's often overlooked: one of the best ways to avoid fitness injuries is to know your body's limitations.

Tailor your workout for problem areas. For example, if you have arthritis in your knees, you'll want to build up strength. But don't do exercises that actually hurt. And be sure to start out gently.

"This isn't just about avoiding certain fitness activities until you're in better shape, though that's part of it. It's also about knowing what your weak areas are and then avoiding the type of activities that are going to push hard on that weakened area," says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Kenneth Plancher.

For example, if you know you have knee problems, don't run on a treadmill or do leg presses - both of which can aggravate an already weakened knee.

Instead, try an exercise bike or even an elliptical machine, which does not cause any pounding on the knee joints.

Likewise, he says, if you have a bad back, you should avoid doing back stretches on a stability ball. If you have weak wrists, weight lifting may not be for you, and hip problems may preclude you from joining an indoor cycling class.

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