Embracing March Madness®? Learn to Protect Your Joints from Injury.

Protecting Joint Tips

We all have basketball on the brain this month. Whether you regularly hit the court with friends for some competitive three-on-three, or are just motivated to get out in the spring air and test your three-point range, know that basketball, while a great source of cardio and endurance, can put your joints at risk. Protect yourself while embracing the spirit of the season with these tips.

Never Skip Your Warm-Up

Never hit the court cold. Even college players participating in this year’s NCAA Tournament warm up before they start their game. Warming up helps to loosen joints, stretch muscles, and increase the flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body. Begin by warming up slowly, and then increasing the pace and effort until your breathing has quickened and your body feels flexible. Jog some laps around the court, accelerating your speed with each lap, and then shoot some baskets before the full contact play begins.

Strengthen Your Knees

Knees and ankles are two joints at high risk of injury for basketball players due to the quick-moves and fast reactive nature of the game. Mild injuries can include knee sprains while severe injuries can consist of torn ligaments. Protect your knees with regular stretching and strength building activities such as wall quad stretches. Position yourself into a lunge with your hands placed flat on a wall and the balls of your front foot flexed up against the wall to stretch and strengthen your back knee. Hold for thirty seconds, switch legs and repeat.

Strengthen Your Ankles

Jumping up for a rebound and coming down on the edge of your foot can put you at risk of rolling your ankle, which could mean a sprain, strain, or six weeks in a cast. Protect your ankles with strengthening exercises such as ankle curls. ­Stand with the balls of your feet on the front edge of a step. Raise up on your toes and relax back down, extending your range of motion as comfortably as you can. Perform ten repetitions.

Wear Protective Gear

If you have experienced an injury to a knee or ankle in the past, or experience mild pain and discomfort due to arthritis, consider playing basketball wearing a knee or ankle brace to protect yourself from an overextension.

Basketball can provide a competitive and fun form of fitness at any age, but don’t take the risks too lightly. Every year, approximately 1.6 million injuries happen on the court. Protect yourself and your joints so that you can keep playing all year round. Game on.

Keeping physically active is key to a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes it’s best to check with your primary care provider before you start to exercise.

Four Ways to Begin a New Workout Routine

Four ways to begin workouts

We love New Year’s and the challenge of resolutions, but there is something about Spring that rejuvenates our spirits and makes us believe in the promise of change. With the warming weather, blooming flowers, and longer days, now is the perfect time to commit to your health and devise a workout plan that you can follow not as a weight loss plan, but as a lifestyle plan. Follow these tips to spring into fitness this season.

  1. Consult Your Doctor. No matter your fitness level or medical history, consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine to discuss your goals. He or she can help you to develop a fitness routine focused on achieving optimal wellness, taking into consideration any of your health concerns or physical limitations. After all, if a new fitness plan leaves you injured or with an exacerbated chronic condition, it won’t be a plan you can maintain.
  1. Focus on Wellness, Not Weight Loss. Even if weight loss is part of your get-fit plan, don’t let yourself be tempted by meal plans, supplements, diet strategies, or exercise machines that promise rapid weight loss. Following a realistic and healthy weight loss plan—and one in which you won’t be likely to gain it back quickly—you should only lose one to two pounds per week. Make sure any plans you follow incorporate a balanced and healthy diet, at least 30 minutes of cardio three to five days a week, and time for recovery and relaxation.
  1. Build Up to Harder Workouts. Once you share your fitness plans with your friends and family, they may be excited to invite you to their advanced spin class or get you a membership at their CrossFit gym. If you have not been working out regularly and are starting from beginner’s fitness level, be realistic about the intensity of your workouts. Based on your discussions with your doctor, you may want to begin with a walking and yoga plan, and then work up to jogging and running, then add in strength training. By trying to bench press 250 on the first day of your new workout, you could be at risk of a dangerous injury.
  1. Build Activity into Your Daily Routine. Remember that three trips to the gym per week will help you meet your goals, but there are also a variety of smaller, daily routines that if modified, can result in improved cardiovascular health and weight loss. Take a walk around the block on your lunch break instead of working at your desk, park at the far end of parking lots, take the stairs instead of elevators, and take your dog for a walk every day. The same strategy can be applied to your diet. Swap mayonnaise on your sandwich for mustard, replace your venti, whole milk latte for drip coffee with a tablespoon of half-and-half, and substitute your afternoon trip to the vending machine for a candy bar with some hummus and carrots, and you’ll be well on your way to seeing the results you want.

Remember that fitness isn’t a short-term commitment. It is a lifestyle choice. Make the decision this spring to commit to your healthiest version of yourself, and work with your doctor to devise a strategy to make it happen. By this time next year, your spring fitness goals just may be running in that 10K you’ve always talked about running.

Check with your primary care provider before you start a new exercise routine.