Feeling tired after every workout? Experiencing lasting muscle soreness after intense exercise? Tossing and turning during the night because of stiff, achy joints? You might be dealing with exercise-induced inflammation.
We all know that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But, not enough people know that too much exercise (without smart protective habits) can lead to inflammation—which causes soreness, stiffness, and fatigue throughout your entire body.
Of course, it’s normal to feel a little bit sore after a challenging workout—that just means that you’re pushing yourself and taking your fitness to the next level! But as soon as soreness becomes sharp pain, lasting stiffness, or constant sensitivity...it’s time to make a change.
So, we’ve put together a list of easy habits that you can practice to stay healthy and pain-free. Here are six simple habits that you can incorporate into your exercise routine to reduce inflammation, protect your joints, and reduce the risk of injury.
PRACTICE YOGA WEEKLY
If your high-intensity workouts are causing your muscles and joints to become inflamed, you should consider incorporating gentle yoga (or another stretching-based workout) into your weekly gym routine. A low-intensity yoga class will help you to manage soreness and sensitivity while still raising your heart rate, activating your muscles, and increasing your fitness.
STOP SKIPPING YOUR WARM-UP
When you have a limited amount of time for your workout, you might be tempted to skip your warm-up and get right into the “good stuff.” Don’t give into temptation, though! If you don’t warm up, you’re risking injury and potentially sabotaging your progress. Even five minutes of dynamic stretching and light cardio will give your muscles time to get loose—so that you’re ready to perform at your best when you dive into your main workout.
MIX UP YOUR WORKOUTS
Doing the same ol’ workout routine, day in and day out? This type of repetition increases your risk of injury and inflammation. Instead of focusing on the same movements and muscle groups every day, mix up your workouts to stay safe and protect your body. Try to incorporate cardio, strength training, and stretching every single week for the best results.
USE STRETCHING TOOLS
You should be stretching out your muscles after every single workout. But...you’re probably skipping your post-workout stretch session way too often (just a guess!). If stretching is painful, uncomfortable, or ineffective for you, it might be time to try using a few new tools. Resistance bands, blocks, foam rollers, and massage balls are all great ways to stretch out hard-to-reach muscles and make stretching feel oh-so-good.
TAKE REST DAYS
Hitting the gym every day of the week? First of all—good for you. That takes dedication, discipline, and motivation, and we’re seriously proud of your commitment. That being said, daily workouts can take a toll on your body if you’re not careful. At least once a week, take a rest day to give your joints and muscles a chance to recover. And, if you really need to move your body every single day, use your rest day to practice a gentler form of exercise, like walking, recreational biking, or low-intensity yoga.
TRY LOW-IMPACT EXERCISE
If you’re experiencing soreness and stiffness on a regular basis, you may need to switch up your exercise routine for an extended period of time. Ditch the intense workouts that are hard on your joints (running, CrossFit, high-impact HIIT), and begin practicing a low-impact form of exercise. We recommend swimming, barre, spinning, or yoga. You may even want to schedule a session with a personal trainer who can create a workout just for you and your needs!
With the help of these protective practices, you’ll be able to take care of your body and reduce the risk of painful inflammation. And, of course, if you’re experiencing any type of pain or soreness, you should consult a doctor or trained professional—the source of your pain may be deeper than exercise, and you should get expert help.