6 tips for exercising the right way and avoiding problems

Last month I warned you about the extreme dangers of extreme exercise. I described a study that followed 52,000 competitive cross-country skiers over many decades. Much to their surprise, researchers found that many of these extreme athletes went on to experience serious heart problems later in life, such as arrhythmias.

Granted, everyone knows that physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But, as this study proved, extreme exercise has serious and long-term consequences. And the concerns about overdoing it go beyond the cross- country skiing zealots in Scandinavia. Every day roadrunners and gym rats can overdo it far too easily as well. Fortunately, six simple tips can help you avoid injury and muscle fatigue. I’ll tell you more about those in a moment.

But first, let’s try and discover why exercise-related injuries are so common…

“It’s definitely possible to go about exercise in the wrong ways where it can hurt you,” says Christopher Wahl, M.D., Chief of Sports Medicine at University of California, San Francisco. He continued, “We’ve become a society that gets easily obsessed…People will decide one day they’re going to be runners and suddenly that’s all they do. There’s not any cross training or exercising other muscle groups.”

As an anthropologist, I know that focusing exclusively on one muscle group is all wrong. And it’s certainly not how men and women stayed fit throughout most of history. It also causes injuries.

In fact, high-intensity runners and bikers suffer frequent injuries because they place repetitive, large amounts of unnatural stresses on their leg joints, muscles and tendons. Especially when working on artificial surfaces. Using incorrect exercise techniques can also cause over-use injuries.

Even well-conditioned runners often develop shin splints due to irritation of muscles in the front of the lower leg. They can also develop stress fractures when over-tired muscles transfer stress loads directly to the bones.

And certain sports in particular are notorious for causing specific injuries. For example, baseball players frequently suffer from elbow injuries. Soccer and football players often fall victim to knee tendonitis and ACL tears. And basketball players often experience Achilles tendonitis.

And the problems start early.

In fact, today many parents and coaches push children to concentrate on sports–even just one sport–from an early age. But this is a disservice. By focusing on athletics, children never really learn how to play freely, in natural ways attuned to their normal anatomy and physiology. And when these children grow up, they’re more likely to suffer from arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Our society also glorifies athletes who “play through the pain” or learn to “walk it off.” But we need to listen to our bodies. And what they are telling us. If you are sore or in pain, there is a good reason.

So here is some sensible advice to help avoid serious exercise-induced injuries:

  1. Take one or two days off every week to recover from physical activity.
  2. Don’t increase training times, training distances, or weight repetitions by more than 10 percent per week.
  3. Take at least two or three months off from a particular sport during the year.(Even the professional athletes do that.)
  4.  Monitor signs of fatigue, muscle soreness, or joint pain. As well as poor performance at school or work. These can all be signs of over-exercise.
  5.  Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more. Failure to stretch properly is a leading contributor to injury. (Yoga is a great way to improve stretching. And it reduces stress.)
  6.  Lastly, remember to hydrate properly.

Athletes of all varieties think they are doing the right thing by attempting to hydrate with “sports drinks” and “energy drinks.”

But these drinks are typically laden with calories, sugars, fats, hydrogenated oils, chemicals, and artificial dyes that make them look like radiator fluid. Sure, they might give an artificial, short-term boost, but they actually end up dehydrating the body as it works to get rid of all the toxins.

So, don’t be fooled.

Healthy hydration is a major key to physical performance. And it helps you avoid muscle fatigue and injuries. But healthy hydration must occur at the cellular level.

As you know, I studied the remarkable red bush plant for decades. This plant originally came from the Kalahari Desert of South Africa. And drinking a tea or beverage made with red bush is the best way to stay optimally hydrated on a cellular level. And this will also help you avoid injuries. In addition, red bush helps muscles utilize blood sugar for better performance.

Several years ago, some colleagues and I developed a new brand of red bush called Red Joe®. You simply add Red Joe’s water-soluble powder to plain tap water or bottled water and drink it. Easy. And delicious. And now, Red Joe is available on this website.

So, keep exercising. But go easy. Mix it up. And keep drinking for good hydration!