Warm up to exercise this summer

Woman stretching

Eric Marchek, a rehabilitation supervisor with Providence Sports Care Center, offers tips on how to exercise effectively and safely this summer.

Summer signals a surge in activity - whether it's taking a hike after a long winter of lying dormant on the sofa, or stepping up your regular routine now that the days are lighter, longer and, we hope, warmer. Make sure you set yourself up for success and stay injury-free by considering these tips:

Make time. Build exercise into your schedule so it becomes a normal part of your day.

Walk the talk. Walking at a steady pace is a great form of exercise and can help improve your baseline fitness levels.

Train your muscles. Light weight training will help build lean muscle and burn fat more efficiently.

Ease into it. Listen to your body and go at your own pace. If you feel good, go a little further. If you are tired, rest. Pushing too hard can cause injury.

Mix it up. Vary your exercise routine to keep boredom at bay, incorporating different activities that you like and that will keep you motivated. Varying your workouts will help condition and strengthen different parts of your body.

Pay attention to pain. If you are injured or experience nagging aches and pains, consult with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise routine. They can help you design a safe program.

Rest in between. Give yourself adequate recovery time - preferably 24 to 48 hours - between exercise activities. Your body needs time to repair damage and build muscle for your next activity.

Reward yourself. Set clear goals and reward yourself (not with chocolate!) when you reach those goals. Consider treating yourself to something special - such as a massage or an afternoon to yourself - once you reach one of your fitness goals.

Beat the heat. During summer, avoid exercising outside in the hot mid-afternoon hours. This will help reduce your chance of developing heat-related problems such as cramps, exhaustion or, more seriously, heat stroke. If you feel light-headed, dizzy or overheated, stop exercising and rest in shade or air conditioning. Drink water and stop exercising for the day. If your symptoms last more than one hour, seek medical attention.

Lighten up. Wear light-colored, wicking fabric to reduce your body temperature during exercise.

Load up on liquids. Don't forget your water bottle! Drink fluids before, during and after exercise. A good rule of thumb is 8 to 16 ounces of fluid for every hour of exercise; more is suggested during hot weather. Water is best, but if you exercise for more than an hour, a non-sugary sports drink can help replenish lost electrolytes.

Stretch it out. Stretch after exercise, not before. A gradual warm up prior to your exercise routine is a great way to get your body ready to work, but static stretching - holding a stretch in one position for 30 seconds or more - is not recommended, as it actually may decrease your performance. Gentle static stretching after exercising, however, can help you recover faster for your next workout.