Fitness Articles

Protecting Your Joints During Exercise

7 Common Exercise Mistakes That Hurt Your Joints

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  • Performing the same activities all the time. It's important to find activities you enjoy, because that makes it easier to stick with an exercise routine. But you can end up with too much of a good thing if you are always doing the same activity all the time. For example, you like running so you do it every day as your only form of exercise. Taxing the same muscles (and joints) in the same way day after day can easily lead to overuse injury and wearing down of cartilage. This is one reason why performing a variety of activities each week is important. By moving your muscles and joints in different directions and intensities, you can help prevent injury.
     
  • Wearing the wrong footwear. When heading into a specialty shoe store for the first time, it's easy to get sticker shock. Typically there are lots of options, many of which can be expensive.  Although you might save money by picking up some shoes on sale at your local discount store, you may also be increasing your risk of injury by wearing shoes that don't meet your needs. Employees at a specialty store are often able to analyze your foot, gait and foot strike, and look for any mechanical or anatomical issues to determine the right shoe for you. Plus, athletic shoes are designed for specific purposes. Running shoes often provide some motion control and cushioning for forward motion, but won't have the ankle support you'd need for playing basketball, which involves a lot of lateral movement and sudden directional changes. An investment in good footwear for your specific activity can prevent injury and pain, as well as the expense from doctor's visits and physical therapy. Learn how to pick the right athletic shoe.
     
  • Exercising with improper technique. Whether riding a stationary bike or lifting weights, proper technique is essential to preventing joint injury. For example, if the seat of the bike isn't positioned properly, it can put extra pressure on the knee that wouldn't otherwise occur, increasing the risk of injury. If you try a new weight machine at the gym without knowing how to use it, this increases your risk of injury. If you don't have ideal gait patterns or alignment (and most people don't), you are putting your joints at risk with every step, lunge, jump and squat--unless you know how to correct yourself. The truth is, few people without formal instruction know how to line up every joint and move through the correct range of motion that keeps their joints safe. While it's something anyone can learn, it takes diligence and attention during every movement--not just in the beginning, but forever. If you aren't sure how to do an exercise properly, ask! Most gyms have trained fitness staff who are there to help. You could also hire a personal trainer for a short time to learn these basics, or even go to a group fitness class where a qualified instructor will be able to explain and point out those keys so that all participants stay safe.
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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