The sun is shining, the trees are in leaf and the breeze is blowing from the river. For many Jersey City-area residents, these signs of nature are also signals to get out an get some exercise—especially now, after city dwellers have been coping with pandemic-related restrictions.
Unfortunately, too often the next signs will be symptoms of common sports-related injuries, from Achilles tendonitis to wrist sprains.
“We tend to see a rash of injuries occur when people get back into fitness again,” says John Feldman, MD, a surgeon at the Orthopedic Institute at Jersey City Medical Center and a member of RWJBarnabas Health medical group.
Here’s his advice for avoiding sports- or fitness-related injuries:
START SLOW. Don’t try to begin where you left off. “People get deconditioned and then attempt to perform an activity at a level above their fitness level,” Dr. Feldman explains. “The most important thing is working up to a particular level of fitness before going full speed in a game or activity.”
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. “If you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain while doing non-strenuous activities such as walking or light exercise, or if there is a family history of sudden cardiac events at a young age, be sure to get checked out by a doctor,” says Dr. Feldman.
BE CITY-SMART. “Obviously, when running in an urban setting, one has to be vigilant about traffic,” Dr. Feldman notes. Look and listen for traffic, cross at intersections only and never cross a street from in between parked cars.
“We’re lucky to be so close to Liberty State Park,” says Dr. Feldman. “If you can, do your running, jogging or walking at places like that. If you can’t, be mindful of traffic.”
Urban obstacles such as curbs and potholes also pose a threat.
“Keep an eye out for uneven ground,” Dr. Feldman suggests. “Running off the sidewalk and onto the road surface can result in a misjudgment and a twisting injury.”
STAY HYDRATED. Hydration is an important concern, especially in warmer temperatures. Drink plenty of water before you work out or play a sport. Hydration should continue during exercise. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Feldman advises that people drink another six to 12 ounces for every 20 minutes of training. “After exercise, it’s also important to replenish fluid lost,” he says. “Sports drinks can be a good supplement to replenish electrolytes lost during the sweating process.”
CROSS-TRAIN. Cross-training, a combination of low- and high-impact exercise, is a good way to avoid repetitive stress injuries.
“Cross-training provides an alternate route for the athlete or individual to keep up their cardio but work out different muscle groups. Overused muscle groups can then get a needed rest,” Dr. Feldman says.
BUILD IN DOWNTIME. Speaking of rest, don’t forget to take time off exercising to recover. “Proper recovery is important to both maximizing performance and reducing injury, as fatigue is clearly linked to injury,” Dr. Feldman says.
KEEP MOVING. Even with the risks, of course, it’s still much better to exercise than not to exercise. Research shows that physical activity improves mood, aids sleep and helps prevent or manage many chronic diseases.
The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends adults get from 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity— anything that makes your heart beat faster—each week. Adults should also perform muscle-strengthening activities (lifting weights, jumping rope, doing push-ups) at least two days a week.
Jersey City Medical Center now offers orthopedic and rehabilitation services in the Newport neighborhood. To learn more about these and other orthopedic services at JCMC, call 844.63.ORTHO or visit www.rwjbh.org/ortho.