5 Tips for Maximizing Your Activity Level for as Long as Possible

5 Tips for Maximizing Your Activity Level for as Long as Possible.

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A group of women exercise together in a park.

Being active is important for living a longer, healthier life, yet staying active can be challenging for some people, especially as they get older. For some, physical activity may seem to aggravate an old injury or lead to a new injury that makes it harder to participate in the athletic events you enjoy.

I understand this firsthand, as I grew up playing sports in high school and college but was sidelined after an ankle surgery in my late 20s. After being told I shouldn’t run ever again, I was inactive for three years before slowly returning to running. I went from being completely sedentary to safely participating in 14 triathlons, 5 half marathons and countless 5ks, which helped me to both lose weight and regain a sense of identity I lost after my former injury.

Now, as a sports medicine specialist, I’m privileged to help a wide range of individuals get and stay active, from those who are just starting out with exercise to the elite or professional athlete who is competing at a high level. While each individual will have different goals and therefore individualized training protocols, there are a few general tips that can help all types of athletes to remain active at their desired level for as long as they can.


1. Start slow and gradually increase your physical activity level.

If you’re just starting to get active, jumping in too fast and too soon can make you more susceptible to injury. And, an injury can make it even harder to participate in the sport you enjoy. Rather, it’s important to understand your baseline and slowly progress from there. You don’t have to start training for a marathon right away, just start walking thirty minutes each day.

If you are already consistently participating in a sport and looking to optimize your performance, it’s helpful to have a clear goal. This allows you to create an appropriate training plan that can help you safely increase your strength, speed, or skill without injuring yourself in the process.

2. Dial in your nutrition to get the right nutrients at the right time.

Make sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet of enough healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates to fuel yourself. This is especially important for the endurance athlete, as you need to have the right mix of nutrients to have the energy you need to go the distance and perform to the best of your ability. There’s a lot of conflicting information about what diet is best, but nutritional experts agree everyone should limit sweets and alcohol. The amount of carbohydrates you need will vary based on your activity level, so consider talking to your doctor about how much you should be eating. If you’re competing at a high level, you can further refine your performance by optimizing when you eat certain types of foods and how much, so you can avoid relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S).

3. Stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts and athletic events.

Whether you’re running a race or just enjoying a sport on the weekend, it’s important to drink when you are thirsty—even in the middle of your activity. And, hydration is more than just drinking water, especially if you’re exercising intensely for long periods of time. Electrolyte replacement is also important for avoiding dehydration, which can lead to fatigue and cramping and affect your athletic performance. Both water and electrolytes are key to proper hydration, preventing injuries, regulating your body’s temperature, and maximizing your performance. 

4. Make others aware of any significant medical concerns.

If you are preparing for a race or other sporting event, it can be helpful to think about how you will let others know about any medical conditions. For example, if you have a heart condition, you could write your medications and an emergency contact phone number on your race bib. Technology can also be a great way to store and share medical information, and there are several different apps for your watch or smartphone that can help others understand your condition and respond appropriately and quickly in the event of an emergency. 

5. Take time to rest and recover.

Good sleep is important for allowing your body time to properly recover and repair in between training and activity. In addition, taking some rest days to focus on strength training or improving flexibility can help you to build up more muscle and balance, which can lower your risk of injury. This is especially important for avoiding injuries that can arise from doing too much too soon, such as shin splints, runners knee, stress fractures, and other common musculoskeletal injuries. If you do have pain that worsens as you exercise and isn’t going away, it’s a good idea to see a sports medicine specialist. You might need to take some time off from your favorite sport, but a good doctor will help you to manage your injury so you can still do what you love and have a plan for safely returning to your sport.

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The human body is pretty universal, so we can generally predict how long it will take you to heal from a certain injury, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a paid professional athlete. One of the advantages of getting sports medicine care at MedStar Health is that you’ll receive the same top-tier care as elite athletes in the area. We’re honored to care for patients of all activity levels, and our goal is always to get you back to the activity and lifestyle you enjoy so you can continue living a full, active life for as long as physically possible.


Seeking care?

Dr. Sedgley sees patients in Frederick, Westminster, and Ellicott City.

To schedule an appointment, call 877-34-ORTHO or Request an Appointment


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