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Avoid injury during workouts

Any time is a great time to get in shape. People with more time on their hands due to stay-at-home restrictions may want to begin an exercise regimen right away.

When proper form is followed, exercise can be highly effective. However, failing to exercise properly can result in injuries that sidetrack fitness plans.

Exercise is a significant component of a healthy lifestyle. The U.S. Surgeon General, the Institute of Medicine, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine all say that daily physical activity is necessary, but recommendations from these groups vary in regard to how much exercise is best. Harvard Medical School says most people should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of intense exercise a day. As important as duration of exercise can be, proper form is a must. The following are some ways to avoid injury while exercising.

• Consult with your doctor. Speak with a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen, especially if it has been some time since you last exercised. A physician will tell you if there are certain workouts or activities you should avoid, or give you a green light. Discuss exercise each time you get a physical.

• Consider a personal trainer. Many people do not know where to start their exercise journeys. A personal trainer can help you begin safely and structure a fitness plan that becomes more challenging as your body acclimates to exercise. Personal trainers also can hold you accountable. Many trainers work independently and may offer guidance remotely through services like Skype, FaceTime or Zoom.

• Begin slowly. Harvard Medical School experts say that sprains, muscle strains, tendinitis, knee injuries, and rotator cuff tears are some of the more common exercise- and sports-related injuries. Slowly wading into the water and building up intensity gradually can help prevent some of these injuries. Choosing non-impact exercises, such as swimming, or using an elliptical machine, can be helpful if you have a preexisting condition like arthritis or osteoporosis or a history of injury.

• Warm up. Don't start workouts cold. Spend several minutes stretching and gradually increasing your heart rate.

• Exercise caution when lifting weights. Get instructed on the proper form for lifting weights, as there is a risk for serious injury when not following form. Spotters are key when lifting heavy weights or if you're jittery after an intense routine. Ask a friend or family member to spot you any time you're doing strength training. This can prevent injuries and emergencies.

Novices need to learn the ropes when they begin to exercise for the first time or after a long pause in physical activity.

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