Exercise judgment when participating in physical activity

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014


For some folks, itís a time for planting the garden, cleaning up the yard or doing projects around the house.

Others set out for the golf course, the tennis courts and the running and biking trails, intent on making up for all those wintry days (and there were a lot of them this year).

But an afternoon of recreational exercise requires more than the latest equipment and unbridled enthusiasm. In fact, that irresistible urge to go for 36 holes instead of nine, to bike the neck instead of doing a few trips around the neighborhood or to play five set s of tennis instead of opting for a game of doubles can be our downfall and sideline us for weeks.

By following some simple advice, all of us weekend warriors can get active and remain active while reducing our risk for injury.

Three elements are key regardless of activity.

ē Flexibility

ē Diet

ē Strength

Flexibility: Start a flexibility regimen and warm up with a few stretches before starting physical activity. Stretch the hamstrings and the back. Yoga is a great way to strengthen and stretch all the muscles. Yoga can be practiced at various levels, so pick one that is right and meets your goals.

Strength: A strong core is essential, not only for sports but also for daily movement and reducing the risk of back pain and back injuries. When we get tired, we become more prone to injuries. With strong abdominal muscles and strong back muscles, we can swing a club more efficiently, serve with more force and run and walk longer distances.

Diet: Eat a sensible, healthy diet with a balance of protein and carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables. Avoid fad diets, such as eating fat at the expense of carbs and protein. Eat in moderation. If youíre training for a long-distance run, then it makes sense to load up on carbohydrates before a race. But thatís not necessary for a daily sports outing.

For more specific sports, I encourage enthusiasts to pay attention to form and specific muscle groups that they rely on for those sports. Golfers are prone to back injuries, particularly disc injuries, so itís essential that you be aware of back movement and how you twist when you swing.

Tennis puts stress on the elbow, shoulders and knees. Be mindful if you have any shoulder or elbow pain. And strengthen the arm. To protect your knees, try to play on synthetic or clay courts because they are easier on the joints.

Running: Donít overdo it. Running is energizing and is an excellent cardiovascular workout, but the fact is, itís just not good on the joints.

Our office provides information to sports enthusiasts and athletes at all levels to help you remain injury-free. One bit of advice I tell my patients is that they can broaden their options. We live in a wonderful setting that invites us to try all kinds of activities. To truly be physically healthy, cross train. Swim one day and run the next, or play golf and then try a set of tennis. Go for a bike ride. That way, youíre getting total exercise but taking stress off one muscle group.

And, lastly, if you experience pain for more than 30 days, get it checked out by a physician. Itís often a sign of injury or arthritis. If itís bothered you for that long, thereís a strong chance it will not heal on its own.

Dr. William Greer is a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon with Waccamaw Orthopaedics. He runs a sports clinic for student athletes in the fall and played football (outside linebacker) for Harvard University.


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