Home Fitness Equipment: Exercise Safety

Fitness is an important and undeniable contributor to one's physical health. Being in good shape helps to prevent a number of health conditions, such as diabetes, and it can also improve one's physical appearance by making them leaner or more muscular. Regular exercise plays a large part when it comes to being fit. The results of exercising are not always positive, however, as it can cause serious injury if it is done incorrectly. For people unaccustomed with regular exercise, understanding certain basics will help them get the most out of their exercise regimen and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Warming Up

Before starting any aerobic exercise, such as jogging or using an elliptical machine, a person will need to warm up his or her muscles by performing a series of minor, low-impact exercises. These exercises are called warm-up exercises, and they prepare your body for more intense exercise. Warming up raises the body's temperature and increases the flow of blood to the muscles to make them more flexible for the impending workout. This reduces the risk of straining or pulling the muscles during the actual workout. Warming up prior to exercise takes only a few minutes to accomplish, typically only five to 10 minutes, and may involve walking or stretching.

  • Remember to Warm Up and Cool Down: A small review of the importance of warming up before exercising. The article gives the reader advice on how long to warm up, as well as examples of warm-up activities.
  • Aerobic Exercise: How to Warm Up and Cool Down: A page on the Mayo Clinic website that explains the benefits of warming up before exercise, and also explains how to warm up. The article includes information about cooling down after exercising and also gives the reader advice on how to cool down.

Listen to Your Body

During the actual workout, the person exercising must listen and heed what his or her body is telling them. Often a person's body will give them a sign if there is a problem. Chest pains, light-headedness, irregular heartbeat, and nausea, are all symptoms that a person should never ignore. These symptoms may be the body's way of telling them that they are overexerting themselves or worse. Listening to the body will let the exerciser know to stop the activity and contacts his or her physician.

  • Safety Considerations - Having Fun and Staying Safe: This is an article that lists a number of safety considerations associated with exercise. The article advises the reader to listen to his or her body while exercising. It also discusses physical signs of overexertion that the reader should be aware of.
  • Rush University Medical Center: Exercise: An in-depth report on exercising. The report is divided into sections and includes a section on the effects of exercise on the heart. This section reviews the importance of listening to one's body for warning signs regarding the heart. Also, the recommended exercise method section also discusses listening to one's body while exercising.

Staying Hydrated

While exercising, it is important to stay hydrated, particularly during the hotter summer months. As a person sweats, they are losing water from their system and can easily become dehydrated if fluids are not replenished. When a person becomes dehydrated not only will they not exercise to their maximum potential, but they can develop headaches, or have difficulty thinking clearly, as well as suffer from dizziness and cramps. While exercising a person should drink four ounces of water every 15 minutes, drinking more depending on the intensity of the workout.

  • Sweating the Details: A WebMD article that discusses the importance of staying hydrated while exercising and what types of fluids are best.
  • Sweating the Details: Expert advice from Women's Health about hydration and exercise. The article provides the reader with detailed advice about keeping hydrated.

Using/Wearing the Right Equipment

Using the right equipment is critical to getting the most out of a workout and reducing any unnecessary discomfort. In many cases, equipment may mean attire, including shoes and accessories. In general, people should wear exercise clothing that allows them freedom of movement and that are made of material that whisks moisture away from the skin. The type of clothing depends on the specific activity and the season. For example, a person would not want to wear running shorts in the middle of winter. Light reflectors are necessary for people who run or jog at night or during the winter months when visibility may be low. Clothing with light reflecting capabilities are available or people may use reflective wrist bands or helmets to make sure that people such as car drivers can see them. Athletic shoes are standard for most types of activities, with running and cross-training shoes being the most common. Caps are also commonly worn for outdoor activities to keep the head protected from the sun, wind, rain, or snow. If a person participates in water exercises, a swimsuit is appropriate and a swim cap or goggles may also be worn.

When using the actual exercise equipment, the right equipment is what best suits the user's goals, preferences, and level of fitness. A person who enjoys bicycling may find that the stationary bike is the right choice. A person who is interested in building muscle or toning up might find a weight machine to be a more suitable option. When using this equipment it is important to carefully follow the instructions given by the manufacturer or a professional fitness instructor if one is available.

  • Selecting Active Wear: A PDF guide that walks the reader through specifics on selecting active wear. The article reviews athletic shoes, swimwear, and outerwear.
  • Ready to Exercise? Take it Inside: An article on the University of Rochester website that gives tips on choosing and using the right equipment.

Exercise in Hot Weather

Exercising in hot weather months presents a number of challenges, such as becoming overheated while working out. This can cause heat stroke and even death. Hot weather does not mean that a person has to stop working out, however it does mean that he or she must adjust how they exercise and learn to recognize the danger signs associated with overheating, such as dizziness, feeling faint, and nausea. People who exercise indoors should only do so if the building is adequately air-conditioned, or if a sufficient amount of fans are working to keep the air cooled down. People who exercise outdoors should dress accordingly by wearing clothing that is lightweight, loose-fitting, light in color, and cool. Working out in the morning or later in the evening when it is coolest are the best times to get in a workout. Exercising in an area that is tree-lined or heavily shaded will also help reduce the heat. It is important to keep bottled water on hand to avoid dehydration due to excess sweating.

  • Beat the Heat: A list of tips on how to work out during hot weather conditions. This brief list of tips is on the Ohio State University Recreational Sports website.
  • Use Caution When Exercising in Hot Weather: An article about staying safe while exercising during the summer months. The article covers how to dress, staying hydrated and choosing the best time of day to workout.

Exercise in Cold Weather

During winter, the challenge is to stay warm and safe enough when exercising outdoors. Depending on where a person lives, he or she may face rain, gusty winds, or snow. While there is always the option to exercise indoors, some people prefer the freedom and fresh air associated with being outside. One of the most important things to do before heading out into the winter cold is to dress properly. This means wearing warm layers of clothes, with synthetic materials closest to the skin to keep sweat from resting against it. A warm turtleneck or long-sleeved t-shirt and a weatherproof jacket should also be worn. Caps, gloves and thick socks are also crucial to keeping the extremities warm. When running or jogging, the wind should be at the jogger's back on the last half of the workout. This will prevent the jogger from becoming overly chilled after he or she has begun to sweat. For some people, certain health conditions may prohibit them from exercising outdoors in extreme cold weather. If a person is under a doctor's care for a health condition, such as a heart problem or asthma, the doctor should be consulted first.

  • Exercise and Cold Weather: Tips to Stay Safe Outdoors: A McHenry County College newsletter that gives the reader tips about safely exercising outdoors in cold weather. The PDF newsletter focuses on what to wear, risks, and how to recognize warning signs.
  • Exercise in the Cold: A page that covers information about exercising in cold weather. It discusses how the body responds to cold and heat loss. The article also gives the reader tips on exercising in colder environments, such as dressing appropriately, warming up, and preventing frostbite or other cold-related complications.