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Step 8: Stay safe
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Exercise is good for you, but make sure you enjoy it as much as possible by staying safe. We don't want to put a damper on your enthusiasm, but it is important to be aware of potential dangers, including crime, traffic, and injury. Use your common sense and good judgment while exercising, and you should be fine. Here are a few tips:

Outdoor hazards

  • Avoid crime by exercising with someone else, or stay in populated, well-lit areas. Carry a whistle in case you have a problem.
  • Always obey traffic rules when exercising near streets or intersections. If you can, try to use sidewalks, parks, or pedestrian paths. These "exercise friendly" places take you out of the way of traffic and are much safer than the street.
  • If you choose to exercise at night, wear a reflective vest or sash. This will help drivers see you in the dark.
  • Do not wear headphones -- they distract your attention and obstruct your ability to hear traffic.
  • Carry identification and a small amount of cash, just in case you need them.

Injury

  • The risk of injury increases if you do weight-bearing exercises more than five days per week. If you exercise every day of the week (physical activity every day is good), reserve at least 1 - 2 days per week for non-weight bearing activity.
  • When cycling, skating, or rollerblading, always wear a helmet and knee pads.
  • Always warm up before your workout, and cool down after it. Don't forget to stretch when you are done.
  • Don't do the same kind of exercise day after day. You want to avoid putting too much stress on one part of the body while neglecting the others. Don't continue to exercise on joints that hurt -- stop or change your activity.

Dehydration and overheating

  • Drink plenty of water or sports drink before, during, and after you exercise. This is important at all times of the year, but especially when exercising in warm weather.
  • Take it slow and be cautious about pushing your limits. Don't push yourself too hard, especially in the heat. Remember that you still need to replenish fluid even when you don't feel thirsty. If you do feel dizzy, lightheaded, or sluggish -- stop, rest, and drink fluids immediately!
  • Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It may decrease your level of consciousness or even cause a seizure. If you experience any of the more serious symptoms -- such as nausea, headache, confusion, clamminess, trouble focusing, fever, or sudden lack of sweating -- you should go to the hospital right away. You should also promptly see a doctor if your heavy breathing, dizziness, and excessive fatigue remain after you have rested and replenished fluids.
  • If heat, humidity, or pollution makes exercise too hard, exercise indoors or during cooler hours.
Heat emergencies include heat exhaustion and heat stroke. For immediate treatment, remove the victim from the heat and have the person lie down. Apply cool compresses, have the victim elevate their feet and drink fluids. Use a fan if available to blow cool air. Seek medical help.

 

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Review Date: 6/28/2011
Reviewed By: Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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