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Work Out Smart: 5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Safe this Winter


Exercise is great. It helps people lose weight, prevent heart disease, combat stress, as well as many other benefits. While beneficial, any sort of physical activity comes with the risk for injury. With the right knowledge and care, many exercise injuries can be avoided so you can keep going. Stay motivated and safe this winter with these tips.

Ease Into New Workouts

If you are picking up a new exercise routine or are beginning exercise after being sedentary, it’s important to go slow in the beginning. You don’t want to wear yourself out too early and miss workouts later because you are too tired or injured. Remember to increase your activity gradually, no matter how active you are, to lower the risk of injury.

Know Your Limits

Be honest with yourself when you are working out—you don’t want to overdo it.  “Listen to your body,” recommends Dr. Steven Barrer, director of The Neurosciences Institute at Abington Memorial Hospital and author of the book Exercise Will Hurt You: Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injury, and How the Dangers of Sports and Exercise Can Affect Your Health. “Forget ‘no pain no gain’—it’s a myth.” Don’t push through exercises that are painful or don’t feel right. This can cause a serious injury and keep you from exercising the future. It’s important to rest when you need to and give your muscles the opportunity to heal between workouts.

Always Warm Up and Cool Down

You’ll find that your workouts are much more enjoyable if you do them properly. It’s important to warm the muscles up before exercising to get circulation going—especially in the winter. Beginning strenuous activity abruptly can lead to potential injury, so be sure to jog in place, do jumping jacks, or a similar activity for a few minutes to get the heart rate up. Once warmed up, stretch muscles like the calves, quads, and hamstrings as they often become tight and can be injured.

And while it’s tempting to hit the showers as soon as you’re done, don’t forget to cool down to steadily lower your heart rate. Begin to walk, pedal slower, or move slower according to your workout. Now is a good time to stretch too—your muscles are really warm from the workout so you can deepen your stretches. Stretching after a workout will also help prevent post workout soreness so you’ll be more likely to get back at it the next day

Change it up

You’ll want to make sure you don’t get bored and fall into a workout rut, so be sure to keep changing your workout. This could also reduce your risk of getting an overuse injury from doing the same exercise repeatedly. Doing a variety of low-impact activities like walking, biking, and swimming can help you use different muscle groups.

Go Outside (Yes, Really)

Even though it’s cold out there, bringing your workout outside can keep it interesting as well as give you a good dose of vitamin D. Dress properly for the cold with a moisture-wicking layer closest to the skin, a layer or too of wool or fleece for insulation, and a lightweight water repellant and wind resistant material on top. Avoid heavy cottons, as they trap moisture and keep it close to the body. Always wear a hat and gloves and cover your face. Be aware of your surroundings and extra careful for ice to avoid slipping.

For more information on heart disease prevention, tune in to the next Abington Health live Health Chat on Preventing Heart Disease presented by cardiologist Andrew S. Fireman, MD on Thursday, February 19 at 6 p.m. Sign up and submit your confidential questions here.