As athletes from around the world descend upon South Korea this week, it’s likely that fans everywhere will be inspired by their speed, strength, agility and endurance. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine says that this can be a great opportunity to consider going back to your favorite sport or even trying a new one.
“These world-class athletes are amazing to watch – they are pushing the limits of human performance in their respective disciplines,” said Dr. Theodore Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor. “Making an Olympic team reflects years of dedication to sport, rigorous training, athleticism and mental resilience. Champions here are the best of the best. One particularly inspiring note is that some of these athletes came to their sport late.
Shybut, who conducts surgeries at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, makes the following suggestions to get started in any sport:
- Take note of your current level of fitness
- Start new activities at an appropriate intensity to minimize chances of injury and soreness
- Cross-train and vary workouts to minimize repetitive stress injuries and see greater overall fitness gains from your exercise program
- Be sure you are getting proper nutrition, rest and sleep
- If it’s a familiar sport but you have not played for a while, ease back into it
- If it’s a new sport, try joining an adult recreational league or finding a coach to help you get started
When considering a new sport, think carefully about what your athletic strengths are and how they can translate into a new activity. Working with a coach or fitness trainer can help you excel and ensure you learn new activities with proper techniques.
If you like running, next time you are in a wintery locale try cross country skiing and dress appropriately. If you like weight training and live or vacation in the mountains, see if pushing a bobsled is the right next challenge for you. If you like team sports and you can skate, look into joining a recreational hockey league.
“There is no question that there are many health benefits to physical activity, including cardiovascular health, reduced risk and better management of diabetes, increased strength and potentially improved bone strength and weight management, reduced risk of some cancers, potentially increased longevity, improved mental health and mood, fall prevention and better overall physical abilities. Exercise is medicine. Plus, exercise is fun,” Shybut said.
Finally, if you have aspirations for your child to develop into an elite athlete, avoid the common mistake of pushing them to specialize at an early age. There is a quickly growing body of research showing that the vast majority of athletes who excel at a high level actually were multi-sport athletes growing up. Shybut recommends visiting http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org for more on youth sports injury prevention.