Improve Your Fitness Without Injuries

How can I improve my fitness, without injuring myself?

Fitness and exercise are things always spoken about but can seem quite overwhelming and not always something we prioritise into our week. It does not need to involve an expensive gym membership, and exercise can be modified to suit any age and health condition. 

Importance of exercise:

We all know and have heard time and time again the importance of exercise but what are the true benefits?

• Weight loss

• Gaining muscle and strength

• Cardiovascular (heart) health

• Improved circulation (blood flow)

• Mental wellbeing

• Increasing in energy levels

• Reducing pain

• Improving sleep

Expanding on mental wellbeing, how often do you feel worse after exercising? Almost never! You feel better for doing something for yourself, doing something you know is benefiting your overall health while enjoying the natural endorphin (happy hormones) hit you get from exercise. Exercise has many (more than stated above) physical health benefits but never forget the positive, mental health benefits too. 

Types of exercise

As an osteopath my first piece of exercise and fitness advice is to make it something you enjoy, otherwise the chances of you regularly exercising and sticking to it, are slim. Make it social and with a friend, so you are accountable for yourself and can motivate each other. Exercise ideally should aim to incorporate cardio fitness, resistance training and strengthening over the week. Cardio fitness elevates your heart rate and might include a power walk, jog, run, or gym class. Resistance training can be as simple as using a TheraBand (elastic stretchy band). Strengthening can be weights-based. This does not mean lifting heavy weights at a gym, you could use household items. 

Always consult your health professional to find out what suits your levels of fitness and health. Exercise is appropriate at any age and modifiable to suit most health conditions. 

How to avoid injury

• Start off slow

• Slowly increase your frequency, duration and intensity

• Technique

• Stretch

• Rest

Injury prevention is not always easy but if you are careful you can help avoid any unnecessary injuries. I always recommend starting off slow. Do not expect to run 10km if you have never ran before. Consider a 5-10-minute walk, every second day, then slowly build up either the pace, the length or the number of times per week you walk. Then slowly increase all three: pace, duration, frequency per week. The same applies to most  types of cardio exercises, start off small and slowly increase. Increasing too quickly can apply extra strain to untrained muscles and joints, making you more likely to injury yourself. The same applies to weights, do not expect to lift a 20kg weight, with perfect technique if you have never lifted weights before. 

Technique is something that is frequently overlooked, especially in high intensity classes. This is where a lot of injuries occur. It is far better to do the movement slower, focusing on your technique, than fast to keep up but injuring yourself and then unable to exercise for a few weeks. 

Stretch, stretch and stretch! Ask your health professional which stretches are best suited to you and how to do them properly to get the best result. 

Rest. Not every day can be an exercise day, just the same as exercising one day a week will not make adequate changes and yield significant  benefits. Having rest days are important for recovering and allowing your tissues to repair. 

Change your exercise

To get improved results, change your exercise. This could mean trying a different gym class, instead of constantly doing the same ones. Try a new sport. In the same gym class, push yourself to a harder weight or increase the intensity (keeping technique in mind). 

How can an osteopath help my fitness goals and treat injuries

Osteopathy is a form of hands-on, physical therapy, treating the whole body, addressing the cause, rather than just treating the symptoms. Your osteopath will help discuss your fitness goals and guide you in the right direction of how to achieve them and work in with other health professionals where applicable. Osteopathy is also aimed at helping prevent the injuries in the first place. Some injuries are not avoidable, but treatment is aimed at getting your body in the best possible state, making injuries less likely to occur. Osteopaths offer tailored advice to suit your individual needs and capabilities. This might include offering advice on types of exercises, stretches, lifestyle modifications to suit you. 


50 East Coast Rd, Milford  /  021 139 7270  /  sarahboughtwoodosteopath.co.nz