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updated 10/8/2010 5:17:46 PM ET 2010-10-08T21:17:46

People who save all their exercising for big weekend bursts of physical activity might be doing their bodies a disservice – these weekend warriors' workout habits make them prone to injury, doctors say.

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Weekend-warrior injuries are most common among formerly active people over age 30, whose work and family obligations prevent weekday exercise, said Dr. Jeffrey Spang, an assistant professor of orthopedics at University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

"Much of their activity is kind of crammed into the weekend," Spang said in a statement.

People also hurt themselves when they have been inactive, and then suddenly take on a major exercise program, such as training for a half-marathon, he said.

A better plan is to break your sessions into smaller, more frequent increments and to avoid exercising too much, too soon, Spang said.

"Gradually increase the amount that you're working out – and the intensity level – on a week-to-week basis," he said.

Each day, more than 10,000 Americans visit emergency rooms for sports and exercise-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most common workout injury is muscle strain, Spang said, but chronic tendonitis and ruptures of the Achilles tendon also result from intense exercise spurts.

Better than nothing
If limits on free time mean working out on the weekend is the only free option, Spang said, that's better than not exercising at all. However, it's better to spread the workouts over several days throughout the week.

Here are four tips to avoid weekend-warrior injuries:

  1. Do a warm-up, like walking or biking at a moderate pace, or doing lunges and shoulder circles. Don't stretch until your muscles are warmed up. After a workout, cool down gradually, and then stretch your muscles.
  2. Sore muscles are normal after an intense workout, but if you feel sharp or stabbing pain, stop exercising immediately. Apply ice and visit your doctor if the pain doesn't go away after a few days.
  3. Find an exercise buddy. When you work out with a friend, the time will be more enjoyable. You'll also be more likely to exercise regularly, because you won't want to let your buddy down.
  4. Use proper techniques when you're working out. To learn about the safest ways to exercise, talk with a trainer or learn more about your favorite activity on nationally-known sports magazine or university websites.

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