UAE: How to keep your New Year resolution on staying fit an injury-free journey

Top physical medicine and rehabilitation expert offers preventive measures to minimise health risks

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Ashwani Kumar

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Tue 16 Jan 2024, 4:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 16 Jan 2024, 11:44 PM

Improving fitness and adopting an active lifestyle are among the commonly taken New Year resolutions. However, embracing the habit of exercising and getting into shape isn’t a walk in the park, and does come with the risk of incurring injuries. But don’t fret as a top physical medicine and rehabilitation expert has provided insights into common fitness-related injuries and offered preventive measures to minimise health risks.

“Whether you’re seizing the opportunity to enjoy the cooler weather with an outdoor walk or run, or are committing to indoor gym sessions, keeping up the momentum and ensuring your fitness journey remains injury-free is paramount,” Dr Yuriy Shepelyak, an American board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation consultant at Mubadala Health Dubai, an M42 company, told the Khaleej Times.

Strains, sprains and cramps

One of the most common types of injuries are strains (muscle stretching or tearing) and sprains (ligament injuries). These often result from sudden movements, improper technique, or overexertion.

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“To prevent strains and sprains, it’s crucial to warm up adequately, engage in stretching exercises, and gradually increase the intensity, rather than jumping to the highest intensity level right away,” Dr Shepelyak, who is also fellowship-trained in regenerative sports and spine medicine, said.

Dr Shepelyak underscored the critical role of warm-up exercises before physical activity.

“Warm-ups prepare the body by increasing blood flow to the muscles, improving muscle elasticity, enhancing flexibility, and mentally preparing individuals for the upcoming workout.”

Dr Yuriy Shepelyak. Photo: Supplied
Dr Yuriy Shepelyak. Photo: Supplied

Muscle cramps, characterised by sudden and involuntary muscle contractions, are frequently triggered by factors such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and fatigue.

“As such, maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance is crucial in preventing such occurrences.”

Start low and go slow

Customising workout routines to align with current physical capabilities is important for injury prevention and long-term progress.

“It’s important to honestly assess your current fitness level, considering factors like strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and overall health. If in doubt of your capabilities, then seek help from a fitness professional or a healthcare provider because they can provide a more accurate assessment and help you establish realistic goals,” Dr Shepelyak said.

“Taking into account the importance of starting low and going slow, you should begin with exercises that match your current fitness level and gradually increase intensity, duration, and complexity over time. It’s imperative to pay attention to how the body responds to each workout and to adjust the intensity accordingly.”

Proper exercise technique

Dr Shepelyak emphasised the importance of mindfulness, proper exercise technique, and a well-rounded fitness approach that includes both strength and flexibility training.

“It’s important to prioritise proper form and perform exercises correctly to avoid unnecessary stress on joints and muscles. Focusing on performing exercises with proper technique rather than simply aiming for a high number of repetitions, reduces the chance of injury and promotes effective muscle engagement.”

Listening to your body and recognising signals indicating potential overexertion or injury is crucial for maintaining a safe and effective exercise routine, and it’s important to know the distinction between normal muscle discomfort during exercise and pain that may indicate an injury.

“A persistent sharp pain, especially if localised to a specific area, maybe a sign of injury, and dull, achy discomfort is more likely related to muscle fatigue. Secondly, it is important to distinguish between normal fatigue from a challenging workout and extreme exhaustion that may be caused by overtraining. If you are feeling excessively tired, weak, or dizzy during or after a workout, it may indicate overexertion.”

Cool down routines

Repetitive stress on specific body parts without sufficient rest and recovery can lead to injuries. To mitigate this, Dr Shepelyak recommended incorporating rest days, cross-training in different activities, and paying attention to the body’s signals, such as avoiding exercise when experiencing pain or fatigue.

“Overtraining can have negative implications as it can lead to irritability, mood swings, or difficulty sleeping. These changes likely indicate that the body needs rest. Additionally, it’s critical to monitor hydration levels in a hot and humid climate. Excessive thirst, dark urine, or signs of dehydration may indicate that the body is not adequately recovering.”

Dr Shepelyak recommended getting at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night, eating a balanced diet, and incorporating massages into your routine to release muscle knots and improve tissue flexibility.

“It’s important to establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a sleep-friendly environment. For example, go to sleep at the same time every night and make the room as dark as possible using blackout curtains. Additionally, proper nutrition provides the necessary nutrients for muscle repair and energy replenishment,” Dr Shepelyak added.

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