Exercise Safely and Avoid Injury
Exercise Safely and Avoid Injury
An exercise program has many known benefits for the body, brain and mind. Our bodies are designed to move with precision and control with concentration and attention. Before starting an exercise program, an understanding of how our body parts work together will help you avoid injury and plan a well rounded exercise program for endurance, strength, flexibility and general health of the heart, lungs, brain and immune system. Endurance, strength and flexibility reduce fatigue and will allow your body to move easier and more efficiently.
Skeletal system and joints
The body is supported by the skeletal system. Our bones are bound together by very strong ligaments made of tough inflexible fibrous tissue. We need strong bones to maintain posture and reduce the risk of fracture. Learn more about bone health and arthritis in the general health section of this website.
In addition to your diet, bones are strengthened by weight bearing exercises. Weight bearing exercises include walking, running, jumping, and dancing.
Bones come together forming a joint from which our bones can pivot, swing, and rotate. As we age, arthritis can impact our joints, restrict range of motion and cause pain with movement. Nutrition and fluids are also crucial for joint health as the joint contains shock absorbing (synovial) fluid and protein. In addition, performing exercises correctly with good body alignment allows joints to function normally, reduce deterioration and prevent tearing and grinding of the joints support structure.
Warming up with slower and deliberate range of motion exercises prepares your joints for more strenuous activity and improves flexibility.
Our rigid skeletal system requires strong and flexible muscles for smooth and controlled movement. Muscles attach to the skeletal system with tendons that are strong and more dynamic than ligaments. Muscles are composed mainly of protein, carbohydrate and water. Just as with bone health, nutrition and fluid intake are also extremely important for muscle function and recovery. Your muscles depend on carbohydrates for fuel and protein for building stronger tissue, both require water. Without adequate nutrition and water intake, the muscles fatigue sooner and recover slower; this prolongs muscle soreness after exercise.
Strong and healthy muscles
Muscles work by contracting and relaxing and when warmed up gradually, lengthen easier and are stronger when stretched. Cold muscles are more prone to injury; therefore muscles should also be gradually warmed up in preparation of more vigorous activity.
Before any intense exercise, the muscles should be relaxed and gently stretched though the range of motion of the muscle.
This improves your overall flexibility to handle larger movements of the arms and legs. All muscle groups should be warmed up head to toe, regardless whether you think you may not need a particular muscle group. Once the muscles become warm they also become more pliable reducing the risk of a tear. Muscles become stronger with repetitive contraction or tensing of the muscle. Targeting the major muscles groups will provide you with a well rounded workout for strength, endurance and easier movement. You can be creative with strength training and it can be as easy as lifting a can of peas.
In the long run, strong flexible muscles prevent fatigue, increase stamina, improve posture and balance and burn calories, even when you are not working out.
Heart and lung health
The musculoskeletal system puts demands on the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen and remove the by-products or body metabolism. The entire cardiovascular system becomes involved, including increases in blood flow to the brain. When working together, all components become much more efficient, reducing fatigue after workouts, reducing sore muscles and restoring the body much more quickly. Eventually, the body has more energy and less daytime fatigue and more restful sleep.
Gradually increase your intensity of exercise. You may hear about recommendations to increase your heart rate to a certain level to enhance your aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. Do not do this on your own. Seek the advice of your physician and the help of a physical therapist. Never exercise with chest pain or if you experience shortness of breath. Stop and seek medical advice immediately.
Avoid accidents that happen with fatigue
Exercising is also a way to increase energy, vent stress and reduce anxiety, both of which can tighten the muscles. Accidents such as falls and pulled muscles are more common when you are tired. Start slowly and gradually increase intensity. Many people overdo it on their good days and pay for it the next day. Pace yourself. Exercise at a time during the day when you feel your best. If you experience motor off periods, exercise during the medicine on state might be easier and more enjoyable.
Lastly, proper shoes should be worn to protect your feet and ankles. A physical therapist can assess your current level of fitness, review proper techniques for exercise, help you set goals and assess your shoes. A physical therapist or personal trainer can provide a structured exercise program and keep you motivated.
Things to remember about your body and exercise:
- Nutrition and adequate fluids are essential to your bone, joint and muscle health, especially with the increased demands of exercise.
- Always start with a relaxed body and use range of motion exercises to warm up all muscles groups – this reduces risk of injury and improves flexibility.
- Don’t push past pain. Some days may be better than others. Listen to your body and use how you feel as a guide.
- Muscle strength and stamina improves with repetitive movements, remember to focus your attention to the muscle you are exercising and contract it as much as possible and then relax.
- The heart and lungs supply oxygen to your working muscles, over time; the whole body becomes more efficient with improved stamina for other activities during your day.
- Injury is common when rushing into an exercise program, start with a little and advance slowly. Injury is common if the body is not warmed up and can occur when using improper exercise technique.
- Start with physical therapy is you have neck, back or joint pain.
- Pay attention to your shoes. Some athletic or running shoe companies have specially trained personal to help you find the right shoe for your foot. Some stores even have treadmills and computerized analysis of walking patterns that can be used to test you in different shoes. See take care of your feet for more information.
- Dont let your exercise slip. Work with a personal trainer to keep you safe, motivated and challenged.
Author: Sierra Farris, PA-C. Physician assistant and DBS program coordinator, Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center, Kirkland, WA. She has many years experience as a certified fitness instructor that she brings to her care of people with Parkinson’s.