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Avoid Injury: 5 Pieces of Advice for Active Women

With the summer weather, you’re bound to spend more time outdoors. You probably have friends, colleagues or family members taking part in 5Ks, charity races or other athletic activities. Between the social camaraderie and health benefits acquired from running and other similar activities, it’s likely you’ll be more active in the summer, whatever your fitness goals may be.

When engaging in any physical exertion—and as women—there are factors to keep in mind to avoid injury and be healthy.

1. Don’t overwork yourself.

Listen to your body. If you start to feel sore, take a breather. And never engage in rigorous physical activity every day without giving yourself rest periods.

According to Dr. Kate Temme, Assistant Professor of Sports Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Sports Medicine Center, “The key to a healthy exercise program is sustainability. Women who gradually increase exercise intensity and duration, while incorporating cross-training and rest periods, are much less likely to be sidelined by overuse injuries such as tendinopathies and stress fractures.”

2. Add variety to prevent injury.

Indulging in too much of any one thing is never good for your health. Running and other high-impact activities can place strain on the body. Try a mix of activities—also known as cross-training—that might include running, swimming and/or a fitness class.

3. Include an adequate warmup and recovery.

Gradually increasing and decreasing your heart rate is necessary to protect your muscles and keep your heart healthy. Any time you engage in extensive physical activity without giving your heart time to catch up, you are putting yourself at risk.

Stretching should also be performed prior to your workout to warm up and loosen your muscles, but it should not replace your warmup. Since stretching does not increase your heart rate, you need to engage in an activity, such as brisk walking, followed by stretching.

4. Stay hydrated.

Failing to drink enough water is one of the most common errors made during exercise. Stay hydrated before, during and after physical activity to feel your best.

“Optimal hydration is vital to athletic performance as well as to general health. Weighing yourself before and after exercise can help you gauge fluid intake needs and prevent dehydration or overhydration,” states Dr. Temme. “For exercise lasting less than one hour, water is usually the most suitable form of fluid replacement. For longer activities, incorporating sports drinks with a balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes can be beneficial.”

5. Maintain a proper diet.

What you eat affects how you feel. Good nutrition gives you energy and keeps your muscles and bones strong; calcium and vitamin D are advised for maintaining bone health. Also, according to Dr. Temme, women are more susceptible to iron deficiency than men, often due to a combination of menstrual blood losses along with inadequate iron intake.

She advises: “Iron serves a critical role in oxygen transport throughout the body, and deficiency can affect general health and athletic performance. While dietary iron is most easily absorbed from animal sources such as liver, fish and oysters, it is also found in beans, lentils and fortified cereals.”

In short, engaging in physical activity, while being mindful of the risk factors, will help you make the right decisions for your body—while having fun and getting the results you want.

Penn Medicine’s Sports Medicine Center is a team of doctors, nurses and physical therapists who take a whole-body approach to diagnosing and treating joints, muscles and bones impacted by sports injuries. Seek care at the University of Pennsylvania’s Sports Medicine Center for advanced treatment in orthopaedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation and pain medicine. Visit Penn Medicine Orthopaedics or call 800-789-PENN (7366).