Editor's Note: The following is a release from Adventist Midwest Health, which includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.
Summer is a great time to get active by going for a run in your neighborhood, trying a new sport or simply playing outside with your kids.
It’s also a great time to get hurt if you’re not careful.
Dr. Colin Kao, a sports medicine and family practice physician on staff at , offers some tips on how you can have fun and stay injury-free this season.
Warm up to avoid injury
Shoulder pain, twisted ankles and charley horses are almost as common as summer sports.
“People tend to over-do it and that can lead to injury,” Kao said. “Getting your body ready for physical activity by warming up is the first step toward preventing an injury.”
Prior to cardio activities like a 5K run or walk, Kao recommended doing some jumping jacks or hopping on a stationary bike for a few minutes to get your heart rate up and get blood flowing to your muscles.
“Warm up for about 5 minutes,” Kao said. “Your heart rate should be between 100 and 120, and you should be starting to work up a sweat.” If you’re a novice runner or are returning to a favorite sport after a long break, be careful not to push yourself too hard, especially if it’s hot and humid.
For activities like golf and tennis that require a lot of repetitive motion, be sure to warm up with gentle stretching before you even put the club or racquet in your hands. If baseball or volleyball are more your speed, make sure you start with gentle throwing, swinging and stretching. Your swing, throwing arm and backhand will thank you.
During a soccer match or pickup game of basketball, you will need to do a five-minute cardio warm up as well as some gentle stretching to prepare your muscles for intense exercise and frequent stops, jumps and changes in direction.
Drink water to stay hydrated
“Humidity can make the temperature conditions much worse because the sweat you produce won’t evaporate off of your body,” Kao said. “That can lead to dehydration, and potentially serious heat-related illnesses.”
If you notice the following symptoms you could be suffering from dehydration:
To stay hydrated, it’s best to drink water before, during and after physical activity. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, re-hydrate yourself, and try to take a water break every 20 minutes or so during intense activity. If your kids play sports, talk with their coaches to ensure that water breaks are available during practices and games.
Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, though if you are working out at a high intensity for a long period of time, or tend to lose a lot of salt when you sweat, a sports drink can replace some of the fluid and salt you’ve lost. Look for one that is high in electrolytes and low in sugar.
Listen to your body
Ignoring aches or cramps could be an invitation to injury. Kao suggests listening to your body and taking a break instead of playing through the pain. If you do suffer a sprain, treat it using the PRICE method—Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
For muscle aches, alternating hot and cold compresses and taking ibuprofen can help ease the pain.
More serious injuries—fractures, or bumps to the head—should be taken seriously and may require a trip to the emergency room.
Shortness of breath or chest pain should never be ignored. “There is usually some kind of warning sign before a cardiac event, but not always,” Kao said. In those cases, he says, it’s best to play it safe and call 9-1-1.