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Exercise is important for both physical and emotional well-being, especially when it gets us outdoors. Many people have recently turned to running in their neighborhoods and parks.

We are seeing a growing number of overuse injuries, joint pain, tendonitis and muscle strain in patients who have had to shift their exercise routines. We want you to know there are easy steps you can take to protect your body when beginning a new running routine.

Make a plan

One step is understanding how much our bodies can handle. Even if you are used to a daily 60-minute spinning class, that doesn’t mean you can immediately turn to a two- to three-mile run every day. While your cardiovascular system may be ready for the challenge, your joints, bones and muscles are most likely not immediately prepared for the pounding the body endures during a run.

Running and walking are excellent forms of exercise, but they need to build gradually to prevent injury. With anything new, it is safest to ease into the routine. I recommend to patients they utilize the 10% rule, which begins with a reasonable, comfortable distance and then increases by no more than 10% each week. This allows the body time to adjust and gradually build strength. Also, it is important to do a five- to 10-minute warm up before initiating your exercise regimen for that day.

Listen to your body

Even if you are following the 10% rule, pay attention if you begin to feel muscle and joint pain. This may be a sign that you are working too hard. If you wake up one morning feeling aches and pains, it is important to give your body time to rest and recover. A day of rest and recuperation may be prudent as you initiate your new exercise regimen.

Mix it up

In addition, identifying days to cross-train with core strengthening, stretching and yoga are important to give the joints and muscles time to recover. Not only will this increase your overall level of conditioning, but will help prevent boredom with your exercise routine and provide motivation to keep you on track.

Following these steps will help you safely build your strength and stamina. We will in the months ahead see a gradual end to this pandemic, allowing us to return to our activities and our

pre-COVID-19 routines. When we welcome that day, remember to step – not jump – back into old routines and allow your body the chance to readjust to what will feel a little new again.

Dr. Matthew Levy writes about orthopedics for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is an orthopedic surgeon at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and practices in Solon, Independence and downtown Cleveland.

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