Running and walking are great forms of exercise, but like all forms of physical activity, there is always the threat of injury. Here are some basic tips for safe exercise:

  1. Be aware of proper body alignment — the best way to determine this is to ask yourself, "Am I comfortable doing this?"
  2. Avoid "locking" out the joints during a movement.
  3. Breathe normally — you never want to feel as though you cannot "catch your breath."
  4. Allow adequate rest in between exercise sessions.
  5. Avoid exercise if you feel any unusual pain or discomfort.
  6. Don't over do it when starting out, build up gradually.
  7. Find the proper shoes for you.
  8. Stretch after you exercise.

Two of the most common injuries from running and walking are shin splints and runner's knee.

Runner's Knee

What it is: A persistent pain just below the kneecap due to inflammation and a gradual softening of the cartilage underneath it. This softening is usually caused by overuse or by the way the foot lands during running.

Symptoms: Slight knee pain during activity that gradually gets worse over time until the runner is forced to see a doctor.

Treatment: One form of treatment is icing the knee for 15 minutes twice a day, especially after activity. Aspirin and Ibuprofen are another short term solution. A long term treatment is orthotics, which are shoe inserts that are specially molded for your foot to ensure that when you run, your foot correctly strikes the ground eliminating undue stress on your knees.

Prevention: The best prevention is to not run too much, especially if you are feeling pain in your knees. Also, be sure to have a good pair of running shoes.

Shin Splints

What it is: A severe burning pain in the lower part of the shins. The pain is caused by small tears in the leg muscles at the point of attachment to the shin. These tears are caused by the muscles in the back of the leg placing excessive stress on the muscles in the front of the leg causing damage.

Symptoms: The pain can start out as a burning sensation during activity or a dull ache after activity. The pain may become more intense if the condition is ignored.

Treatment: Icing the affected area after activity and taking Aspirin and Ibuprofen are good short term treatments. The best remedy is rest, try reducing your activity for seven to 10 days and never try to run through the pain, as this will only worsen the condition.

Prevention: Limiting your running and proper shoe apparel are excellent ways to prevent this painful condition. Should you have to ease off on your running, some good substitutes are swimming, elliptical training or biking. Also be sure to stretch often.