SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - Airmen must be physically fit to support the Air Force mission. With the inception of the Air Force fit-to-fight program, Airmen may be experiencing more knee, back and shoulder injuries.

These injuries are mainly caused by running and can be easily prevented, said Professor Timothy Noakes, author of "Lore of Running." Here's some of the ways you can prevent injuries when starting a running program.

1. A simple warm-up exercise such as a five-minute brisk walk, running in place or jumping jacks will allow the muscles to warm slowly, decreasing the chance of injury.

2. Stretching loosens the muscles slightly and takes pressure off the joints. It is important that the warm-up exercise be performed before stretching, because it does not help to stretch a cold muscle.

3. A cool-down exercise should take place after exercising as this lowers the intensity of the exercise and allows the heart to slow down and the muscles to relax. Afterwards, muscles need to be stretched once again.

4. You can minimize the wear and tear on your body by replacing up to 25 percent of running with biking, swimming, deep-water running, elliptical training or other aerobic non-weight bearing exercises.

5. Dehydration is not limited to the summer months, although it is more likely to occur during that time. Many physicians believe people who drink coffee, tea, soda and alcohol are at greater risk for dehydration. Those who consume these products should drink an equal amount of water. According to Noakes, by monitoring the color of your urine, you can tell if you are well hydrated. It should be pale yellow or even clear. Dark-colored urine can be an indication of dehydration.

-- Master Sgt. Darrell Mayers
20th Medical Operations Squadron