How can I prevent injuries while exercising?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Here are some general guidelines to avoid getting hurt when exercising:

  • Vary your exercise pattern. Don't do the same activity every single day, and certainly not more than two days in a row. If you go jogging three days a week, consider swimming on the other two. Or rotate between the different aerobic machines at the gym: Do the StairMaster one day, the treadmill the next, and then the bicycle. Try to use all of your muscles, working both the upper and lower body. Also, it is often better to do a variety of different exercises that complement a training routine rather than just one activity.
  • Do strength and flexibility exercises before you start your aerobic workouts. Combinations like biking and weight lifting, running and yoga, or aerobics and stretching exercises are mutually reinforcing. They help ensure against a damaging injury.
  • Warm up. Start by doing something that gets your muscles moving. Walk briskly or jog at a slow pace for a few minutes. (If you exercise at a club, consider walking to the club if you live or work within a mile of it, a double benefit). Don't think that you will save time by skimping on the pre-workout. Beginning a strenuous workout with tight, stiff muscles is the most likely way to damage or injure a muscle. Remember, too, to cool down by stretching your muscles at the end of each workout.
  • Avoid overexertion. Gradually increase your exercise time by no more than 10 percent a week. Even if you are training to meet a goal like running in a marathon or playing in a tennis tournament, do not overdo it. More than 40 percent of marathoners who run over thirty miles a week will develop injuries within the training year -- the quickest way to put the dream of the race to rest. And always do strength training for at least 30 minutes a week -- it will improve your times and decrease your risk of injury.
  • - Do stamina exercises without axial or up-and-down motion on your hip, knee, or spine joints. Osteoarthritis affects over 95 percent of us by age 85. One way is to do exercises that do not involve pounding on your cartilage -- so avoiding running on pavement and preferably use exercises machines such as a bike or elliptical trainer that do not involve pounding up-and down shocks to your hip, knee or spine joints.

There are a few ways that you can prevent injuries while exercising.

1) if you haven't been active in a while, check with your doctor first, and make sure that it is ok for you to be exercising and follow any guidelines from your doctor.  This is particularly important if you have any cardiac risk factors such as previous cardio incidents, if you have family history of heart disease, if you are obese, or if you are a smoker.

2) if you are new to exercise, or have been inactive for a while, consult with a fitness professional.  They will help you choose the right exercises to get started and will monitor your form.  Correct form is critical for injury prevention

3) Always warm up.  Cold muscles are more likely to get injured.

4) Protective gear.  i.e. If you are a biker, use a helmet (not necessary for stationary bikes), wrist guards for roller bladers.

5) Be aware of your surroundings.  Don't make the volume so high on an mp3 player that you can't hear the traffic around you, and don't exercise alone in dark deserted areas.

Heidi Powell
While injuries do happen, there are some things you can do to help prevent them while exercising:
  • Always warm up and cool down. Always.
  • Stretch before and after every workout and throughout the day.
  • Ease into a new program or exercise.
  • Don’t stick to the same routine day after day -- throw some cross training days into your schedule.
  • Know your “trouble” spots (knees, ankles, feet, elbows, etc.).
  • Listen to your body. Seek medical care sooner rather than later, and don’t try to “tough it out” because you could end up making your injury worse (which means a longer recovery period!).
  • Fuel your body with healthy foods and lots of water.
  • Work with a certified trainer to learn how to work out correctly, especially if you’re new to strength training.
  • Dress appropriately for your workout. Be sure to wear a helmet when biking, the right shoes if you’re running and so forth.
  • Be sure to incorporate some rest days into your routine, and make sure you actually rest!
This content originally appeared on
Being  physically active is safe if you are careful. Take these steps to prevent injury:
If you're not active at all or have a health problem, start your program with short sessions (5 to 10 minutes) of physical activity and build up to your goal. (Be sure to ask a doctor before you start if you have a health problem)Use safety equipment such as a helmet for bike riding or supportive shoes for walking or jogging.Start every workout with a warm-up. If you plan to walk at a brisk pace, start by walking at an easy pace for 5 to 10 minutes. When you're done working out, do the same thing until your heart rate returns to normal.Drink plenty of fluids when you are physically active, even if you are not thirsty.Use sunscreen when you are outside.Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you're probably bending the right way. If your back "humps," that's probably wrong.Stop your activity if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, nauseous, or have pain. If you feel tightness or pain in your chest or you feel faint or have trouble breathing, stop the activity right away and talk to your doctor.Exercise should not hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit weary. But you should not feel pain. In fact, in many ways, being active will probably make you feel better.
The answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.
Beth Oliver

Ensure that you are working with proper form. Look for trainers or teachers that give specific instructions and feedback. Increase one fitness principle at a time:

                1) frequency (how often)

                2) duration (time)

                3) intensity (workload)

Listen to and respect the information that your body is sending you.

If you are new to exercising consult with a fitness professional. They will instruct you on proper form. They can also do a movement assessment to determine what muscles need to be stretched and strengthened to prevent muscle imbalances to be able to successfully reach your goal safely.

There are a number of simple steps you can take to help minimize the risk of injury while exercising. The first is to make sure you perform a thorough warm up, which may involve light activities, stretching and foam rolling of tight areas and moving all the major body parts through their range of motion to prepare them for further activity.  The second tip is to never use more weight or go faster than you can maintain proper form for, do not sacrifice technique and form for performance, lighten the load or slow down the speed until the form is good again. Finally make sure you progress slowly and give your body plenty of time to adapt to increased weight or workloads. If you follow these tips you will decrease the likelihood of developing an injury.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

There are a number of safety tips you can follow to help you avoid injuries while you are working toward your physical goals.  Watch my video to learn more!


Doing following can help you keep yourself safe while exercising:

  • Balance all three types of fitness: cardio, strength, and flexibility
  • Stretch, warm up, and gradually increase the pace
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Use the proper equipment for your activity
  • Slow down, cool off, and stretch to maximize flexibility
  • Rest between sets and take a day off now and then
  • Listen to your body
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Depending on the type of activity in which you will be participating, be sure to have a good stretching routine. For any physical activity, stretching should occur prior to and after said activity. The stretching routine is most beneficial when it encompasses the entire body. However, also add stretches focusing on the particular group of muscles you will use for your activity. For example, be sure to stretch you arms if you are playing baseball. Knowing your physical limitations will also help prevent injury. Do not go run a marathon if your maximum activity has been walking a couple of miles per day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.