Keep Your Resolutions - Prevent Exercise Injuries

It’s that time of the year when many of us — about 45 percent of Americans — make a wish list of New Year’s resolutions. 

Losing weight, spending less, saving more ─ staying fit and healthy rank in the top five resolutions, according to the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology.

But how can you make good on those New Year’s promises?

The American Psychological Association says that if you make realistic resolutions, you have a greater chance of achieving your goals. The Association recommends these steps:

  • Change one behavior at a time.
  • Talk about your goals.
  • Be kind to yourself – don’t beat yourself up.
  • Ask for support.
  • Start small.
  • Michael Swartzon, M.D., a primary care orthopedic and sports medicine physician at Doctors Hospital and Baptist Health, agrees and says that when it comes to your exercise resolutions starting small is a good idea.

    There are two different types of sports injuries — traumatic injuries (a fracture or a ligament tear) and overuse injuries, Dr. Swartzon says. “Overuse injuries are easier to prevent,” he says. “Start out slowly, and gradually increase the time, distance, intensity and frequency of your activity by no more than 10 percent as you become stronger and more flexible.”

    If you are currently a couch potato, one of the best activities that you can do is walk, Dr. Swartzon says. Basic walking around the block in your neighborhood or spending 10-15 minutes on the treadmill are measurable activities that can be increased easily. Medical experts recommend walking as a way to prevent many diseases including diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense activity each week and muscle-strengthening activities twice a week for adults. If you have a medical condition, it is important to be checked by a medical professional before you start any exercise program.

    Dr. Swartzon recommends the following tips to prevent overuse injuries:

  • When starting out, think honestly about your ability and choose your sport accordingly.
  • Do a proper warm-up and cool down before each workout.
  • Keep well-hydrated. In warm climates, like Miami’s, heat injuries are particularly common.
  • Take the stairs at work; park farther away, or walk during your coffee breaks.
  • Consider cross-training. By performing several different types of activities, the muscles in your body become stronger and more flexible.
  • Take time off from your exercise routine. The rule of thumb is to take one day off every seven days.
  • Make exercise appointments on your calendar; sign a contract, or keep a diary to stay on track.
  • If You Are Injured:
    “Listen to your body – let your pain be your guide.  If you have pain, STOP! Don’t be a hero,” Dr. Swartzon says. “Treat your injury by practicing RICE.”

    RICE is an acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The term is used by medical professionals to prescribe four procedures you need to follow to treat injuries such as a sprain, strain or bone injury.

    Be mindful of the pain and rest accordingly, especially when you attempt regular activities like working and walking.

    Ice is an excellent treatment. Put ice on the injured area three or four times a day for 20 minutes.  In the morning, after exercise (if you are able) and at bedtime are the best times.

    Compression (wrapping the injury) will help control the swelling. It won’t heal your injury but it will relieve the swelling that can cause pain and limit your mobility.

    It is important to elevate the injured limb above the heart. Elevation is recommended as often as possible.

    “Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended,” says Dr. Swartzon. “Be aware of side effects, including an upset stomach or a spike in blood pressure. Avoid mixing medicine and alcohol. It is best to consult your doctor.”

    Seek Medical Attention:

  • If you have severe pain from the beginning.
  • If you have been treating your injury with RICE for more than two days.
  • If your injury makes you unable to perform your normal daily activities, including work.
  • If you heard a popping sound from the injured area.
  • Know Your Medical History:

  • The physician will take a history of the injury and any prior injury or surgery. Questions might include: what happened after the injury; which treatments have been applied, and how are you doing now?
  • The physician may take an X-ray to examine the muscles and joints and to make sure there are no traumatic injuries like a fracture. Based on exam results, the physician will formulate an appropriate treatment plan.
  •  “In most cases, the physician will try to treat the injury non-surgically by reinforcing RICE; prescribing medications; physical therapy or advanced treatments — with the goal of gradually returning you to your normal activities,” Dr. Swartzon says.

    Stay safe and injury-free – good luck with your resolutions!  Let us know how you’re doing.






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    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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