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Time to get moving

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

According to the calendar, spring is here. However, the ever-changing Indiana weather has told us differently since the official start on March 21. With alluring temperatures in the 70s it is no wonder that many of us are itching to get outdoors.

Many of us view the spring time as the opportunity for a fresh start, a new outlook on the year ahead. Often during this time we begin to revisit our New Year's resolutions, making the promise to ourselves to get active. The sunshine and the pleasant weather reinvigorates us to get moving. But, after a long winter of inactivity, it is important to take the proper precautions to avoid an injury.

The keys to a successful transition from a sedentary to an active routine can be achieved when we keep a few rules in mind.

Remember to take it slow. Just because the weather has your endorphins running high, does not mean you are ready to go out and run a marathon, especially if you have been on the couch all winter.

Mypyramid.gov encourages everyone to participate in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week. It may take a couple of weeks to work up to that for some. But strive to get a little more time in with each day. Remember, it has been awhile. Your body will appreciate you taking it slowly instead of jumping in full force the first day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also says that your 30 minutes of activity does not necessarily have to be consecutive. If it is more conducive to your schedule, work in three 10 minute segments or two 15 minutes sessions. The important thing is to get moving.

Stretch. Stretching will help prepare your body for your activity. Reminding muscles and joints that we are made to move may take some time. So, it is best to begin each workout or activity with a simple three to five minute stretch, being sure to focus on all of the muscle groups that will be used during the activity.

It is also important to stretch again after you are done to help avoid any cramping or tightness.

Stay hydrated. Not every liquid counts. Water has always been the recommended beverage. Sodas and other caffeinated drinks can actually dehydrate you. Water replenishes what was lost by the body during the activity through sweating.

Drinking plenty of fluids prior to your activity will also help you to sweat during the workout keeping you cool and able to continue moving.

Get started. A lot of people wonder what they can do to slowly get back into a routine of regular activity. Walking is the easiest, simplest, cheapest and arguably the best way to begin and maintain a program.

Almost everyone has access to a safe walking route. Walking around the block, downtown and parking lots are all great places to begin.

After a period of time, begin challenging yourself even more. Go farther. Walk quicker. Push yourself to do more. Ultimately, we should be striving for 10,000 steps a day, or approximately five miles.

The most common injuries people incur when getting back into a routine are pulled muscles and sprains.

Pulled muscles occur when the muscle and tendons have been stretched beyond their capacity, strained, overused or fatigued. This can happen with any muscle in the body.

If you experience a pulled muscle, you should ice the injured area for 20 minutes, then remove the ice for another 20 minutes and repeat the cycle as often as possible while the injury begins to heal. As soon as you feel comfortable, begin stretching the muscle. It will take time for the muscle to return to normal activity. You can return to your regular activities once you no longer experience pain in that affected area.

Sprains are also very common. There are different levels of severity depending on how the twist occurred. A mild sprain, most common, can occur with a simple miss step and is often referred to as rolling the ankle.

If you experience a sprain and you are unable to put any weight on the injured area, it is best to seek medical attention to rule out fractures and torn ligaments.

The best care for a sprained area, like an ankle, is to rest, ice, elevate and compress the injury. This will help to limit the swelling as well as any internal bleeding.

If you experience an injury or have questions on how to prevent a specific type of injury, contact your primary care physician or a physical therapist. Both can give you specific stretches and activities to participate in to help prevent an injury.

Remembering to take it slow, stretch and hydrate will help you to avoid most injuries. So, get out. Get moving. Enjoy the spring weather, if it ever decides to stick around, and start preparing for the next (dreaded) season: swimsuit season.

TX: Team and Putnam County Hospital have teamed up to provide high quality physical, occupational and speech therapy for local residents. If you feel you could benefit from one-on-one therapy, please contact the office at 655-2639. A physician's referral is needed.