Get a Yearly Check-Up: Most gyms and exercise programs will request or require that you get a check-up to ensure you don't have a health problem that could be made worse by certain types of exercise. But medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can sneak up even for active people, so don't skip your yearly check-up. Discuss your fitness plans with your doctor, especially if you have a preexisting condition or are on medications. Most often your doctor will applaud your decision to get more active, but may have some restrictions or cautions if you have certain health problems or risks.
Don't Skip the Warm-up and Cool-Down: Research on warm-ups and stretching has shown the warm-up to be the most important factor in preventing injury. As part of your cardio exercise session, start out at an easy pace and light exertion for 3 to 5 minutes before increasing your exertion to your target level. Take another couple of minutes to cool down at a lower exertion level after your main session. For strength training and other exercise activities, 3 to 5 minutes of walking on a treadmill or walking in place will help get the blood flowing to your muscles so you will be able to perform better.
Warm-ups vs. Stretching Research
Make Gradual Increases: Your body will experience a great training effect if you increase your time or intensity or reps of an exercise gradually. For strength training, start with lighter weights and increase the reps and sets before you increase the weights. For cardio exercise, increase the time and work on your form before increasing your speed and exertion level.
Use Good Technique: How you do the exercise is critically important both for getting good results and preventing injury. If you are lifting weights in a way that strains your lower back, eventually you will feel the strain. If you use bad posture and overstride on the treadmill, you will get aches and pains and overuse injuries. Working on core stability, positioning, and posture will help prevent injuries and sore muscles. Use a personal trainer for a couple of sessions to ensure you are doing the moves correctly.
Keep it Clean and Neat: One of the biggest risks of a gym accident is tripping over something left lying around. Clear the area of objects you may stumble over during your moves. Clean the equipment after you use it to prevent sharing colds and flu. Most gyms have disinfectant available for wiping down equipment.
Machine Safety: Treadmills, exercise bikes, and weight machines all have moving parts and the risk of pinching and crushing your fingers and toes if you aren't paying attention. This is why most gyms do not allow children (no matter how well-supervised) in the workout area. Make sure pins and collars are used properly on weight machines and barbells. Be aware of who is working out around you, what motions they are using, and stay out of their way.