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Safety comes first when exercising

Uncomfortable responses associated with exercise can occur for a number of reasons. Some, such as muscle soreness, are normal as your body adapts to greater challenges, while others can be an indication of a more serious problem.

Dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration can include increased thirst, palpitations, weakness, dizziness, decreased urine output, dry mouth and an inability to sweat. To avoid becoming dehydrated, drink water before, during and after your exercise sessions. If you are exercising for long periods of time (generally longer than one hour), exercising under high heat and humidity conditions, or are profusely sweating while exercising, then consuming a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes is generally recommended.

Muscle aches and pains. ‘Muscle burn’ felt during exercise is normal and usually subsides once the activity is discontinued. It is the result of lactic acid, which builds up when there is not enough oxygen available to the working muscles. Delayed onset muscle soreness is normal as long as it subsides after a day or two of rest. However, when workouts are excessive, over-training occurs. This is a major cause of exercise-related issues, causing excess wear and tear on tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones and ultimately leaves you weaker instead of stronger.

Side stitches. Sharp, intense pain under the lower edge of the ribcage that comes on suddenly is known as a “side stitch.” This is caused by a muscle spasm of the diaphragm and usually happens during intense exercise, such as long distance running. One immediate treatment for a side stitch is to take in a deep breath, hold for a couple of seconds and then forcibly exhale through pursed lips. Most people find that once the side stitch goes away they can resume exercise without recurrence. The most effective way to prevent a side stitch is to take deeper fuller breaths when working out vigorously. Another preventative measure is to make sure you have warmed up before your workout, adding intensity gradually.

Shin splints. These cause pain in the lower part of the legs, felt near the front of the leg along the shin bone or on the inside portion of the leg near the ankle. A common cause of shin splints is pronation of the feet, which occurs when the foot flattens out too much. Tight calf muscles, recent changes in activity, wearing improper footwear, or walking uphill instead of on a flat surface can also cause shin splints to develop. To help prevent shin splints, maintain a good balance of muscle strength and flexibility. If you already have shin splints, allow for recovery, and gently stretch, especially after working out.

More on this topic in next week’s column.

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