If you exercise a lot or play a sport, you may want to work with a physical therapist or trainer, especially if you have already had a sports injury. Follow these tips:
- Do exercises that increase core stability, agility, flexibility and balance. Include strength training, plyometrics (which involves first stretching a muscle and then contracting it rapidly) and activities that improve proprioception (your sense of position), such as using a balance board.
- Practice dynamic warm-ups—which are very active, as opposed to slow stretching. Examples include using exercise bands around both ankles while doing various walking maneuvers (forward, backward, to the side and variations on normal walking), as well as exercises where you hop back and forth on one leg, run zigzag, skip forward and backward by crossing one leg over the other, and run backwards.
- If you have knee problems or are predisposed to them, avoid the following: leg extensions with heavy weights and locked knees; full squats (unless advised by a physical therapist); running downhill; cycling with the seat low and in high gear; taking large steps on stairs or stair machines.
Try these exercises:
Slow-walking Lunge Exercise
Walking slowly, take a big step forward with your right leg; land softly on your heel before planting your whole foot down. Then lower your body into a lunge, with your right thigh parallel to the ground, your back heel lifted, and your weight on the front heel and back toe. Make sure your knee does not extend past your toes (if it does, you have not stepped far enough). Squeezing the buttock muscles on your right side, slowly rise and step with your left leg, bringing it next to your right leg. Then repeat the lunge with your left leg. Continue 10 times with each leg.
Plyometric Squat Jump Exercise
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your fingers interlocked behind your head. Squat half- way (keeping your knees in line with your toes) and then jump straight up as high as you can, pulling in your abs. Land in the original half-squat position. Repeat 30 times, pausing after each set of 10. Don’t squat too low; land gently on your feet after each jump.
Adapted from The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (December 2011); Updated by Remedy Health Media