Start slowly and allow for time to rest and recover

The excitement and anticipation surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl may prompt some people to take up a new sport or up their levels of physical activity.

And, while more exercise is a healthy goal, board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dana Soucy, M.D. advises that it's important to start gradually and take certain safety precautions when returning to an activity or picking up a new one.

"We all get excited watching athletes perform at such high levels of competition," said Dr. Soucy.

"We may even get energized to accelerate our own exercise regimens. Following a routine with a moderate approach and a gradual return to or start of activity often produces the best results," Dr. Soucy added. "Gradually increase participation and duration of a sport.”

Your first stop should be at your doctor's office. Trying a new sport or activity can put strain on your body. Make sure your doctor approves the new exercise regimen.

Next, make sure you've got the proper clothing and equipment. Layering clothes that are appropriate for the weather and for your activity may be essential to perform well. "If you're in a winter weather setting this time of year, make sure to dress in layers to ensure maximum protection and benefit from the cold," said Dr. Soucy.

Any equipment or shoes you use should also be in good shape and working properly to ensure your safety.

Be sure to eat a healthy diet and stay well hydrated before, during and after exercise to improve your muscle function.

If you need extra encouragement to stick with your new activity, enlist the support of a friend, co-worker or family member who can exercise with you or help you stay motivated, Dr. Soucy suggested.

Once you get started, however, try not to overdo it, especially if you are working with weights, he cautioned. It's important to use proper form, increase weights gradually and rest between sets. "Trying to accelerate a weight training regimen too quickly can lead to unwanted injury or fatigued muscles," said Dr. Soucy.

Don't forget to warm up and stretch before a workout and cool down afterwards to reduce the risk for injuries. If you do experience muscle soreness or pain, listen to your body. This is a sign that you need to rest, particularly if you are playing a sport or doing something that requires a repetitive motion.

"Developing a plan that encourages use of different muscle groups can build strength and endurance and give muscles a chance to rest and avoid overuse. If injury occurs, stop the activity immediately and seek medical advice," Dr. Soucy said.

Something else people often leave out? Time to rest and recover after starting a new activity. Dr. Soucy said people may need at least a day of rest in between exercise sessions, at least in the beginning.

"Following these recommendations will help ensure a balanced approach to exercise and physical activity leading up to the big games and right into spring," Dr. Soucy said.

To schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, call Consult-A-Nurse at (502) 226-1655 or (877) 376-2631, or Find a doctor.