If you’re getting back to a fitness program or gym after spending months in lockdown, be careful not to hurt yourself, a sports medicine expert urges.

“One of the most common reasons people get injured is because they overexert themselves when their level of fitness is not where they want it to be,” said Dr. Irvin Sulapas, a primary care sports medicine physician and assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Here are some tips on how to prevent exercise injury:

  • Warm up and cool down. Warming up and cooling down muscles can help reduce the risk of injury, Sulapas said.
  • Use correct form. Many injuries happen because of poor form — make sure you are doing the exercise correctly.
  • Start slowly. Ease into your workout. Reduce the distance for cardio and decrease weight for weight training until you get back to your normal pace or weight.
  • Exercise outdoors. If you are not comfortable returning to the gym or exercise classes, stay outside with your workout.
  • Keep hydrated, especially when temperatures are high.
  • Work out in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are lower.
  • Wear breathable fabric to help prevent overheating.
  • If an injury occurs, slow down, stop and assess the injury. Depending on the injury, use an ice pack compress and elevate the limb, Sulapas advised.

“Do not try to work out through the pain,” Sulapas said in a Baylor news release. “If something is hurting, remember to stop because you might make it worse.”

More information

For more on exercise injuries, head to the Mayo Clinic.