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5 precautions for weekend warriors

When weekdays are jam-packed with activity you can’t reschedule, weekends may seem like the only time you can squeeze in some exercise. Take heart: A recent study shows two days of exercise a week are better than none, if you’re already healthy. But if you’re obese or have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors, your weekend warrior ways won’t do much to improve your health.

Take heed, though. Not exercising all week, then going full tilt on the weekend increases your chance of injuries. To stay healthy and active, use these strategies, recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Precaution 1: Talk to your doctor about your exercise and sports plans.

How it helps: Your primary care physician can discuss your health risks (like asthma, diabetes or an irregular heartbeat) with you and suggest precautions. If you have old sports injuries or conditions like bursitis or arthritis, an orthopedic surgeon can recommend injury-beating modifications or stretches to condition your body for weekend play.

Precaution 2: Always warm up and stretch before physical activity.

How it helps: Since cold muscles and stiff joints are more prone to injury, you’ll be less likely to hurt yourself. Get your heart pumping and warm up your muscles with jumping jacks, jogging or an easy bike ride for five minutes. Next, perform gentle stretches for your entire body.

Precaution 3: Wear supportive shoes and use appropriate equipment.

How it helps: Thinking a weekend run, aerobics class or other activity doesn’t justify spending money on new shoes or safety equipment can lead to injuries. Whether you walk, run or play tennis, your feet need support. For activities like inline skating, invest in appropriate padding and a properly fitting helmet.

Precaution 4: Increase your activity gradually.

How it helps: Overdoing it on Saturday can leave you sore and exhausted and icing your injuries on Sunday. Pace yourself. Lengthen the time or distance you exercise by 10 percent a week and add new activities to your weekend conservatively.

Precaution 5: Listen to your body.

How it helps: You’re probably not as fast or flexible as friends who exercise regularly. Recognize fatigue and pains as signs you need to ease up or modify your fitness program. Stop before you become exhausted.

You’ll improve your health, control your weight better and boost your mood more easily if you add another day or two of exercise during the week. But until you start finding the time to squeeze in an exercise DVD or a power walk, start adding more activity into your days, like walking the dog longer, doing extra yard work and playing with your children more often.