It’s important to respect the rules of too — too much, too soon — when beginning or ramping up your exercise routine to avoid injuries.

Whether you are starting a brand new program or you’ve been exercising for a while, making changes like new shoes, running on a new surface or adding a new activity like speed work or heavier weights can also lead to issues and injuries, advised Endeavor Health sports medicine expert Hallie Labrador, MD.

“Movement is medicine” said Dr. Labrador, who encourages patients to develop and stick to exercise routines that work for them, being mindful of strategies to reduce the risk of joint damage and other injuries.

“Listen to your body,” she said, citing one of the most important rules to maintaining an active lifestyle. “If something keeps hurting while you are working out that can be a red flag.”

Generally, sore muscles get better and aches and pains from a hard training session diminish in a few days. When they don’t, it can be an indication of a more serious injury.

“With most injuries, the sooner that you treat it appropriately, the faster it will heal,” said Dr. Labrador, who suggests checking with a physician when an injury lingers, especially if you have taken time off from an activity, like running or cycling, and the pain persists.

As we age, we need to pay more attention to strength and flexibility to help maintain healthy joints. Sometimes runners or cyclists have a tendency to go all out, and neglect important mobility and strength exercises that can help stabilize and take strain off hips, knees and ankles.

For athletes coming off a specific injury, it’s a good idea to work with a physical therapist (PT) to develop a personalized plan of exercises to target some of the smaller stabilizing muscles most people don’t often think of working, added Dr. Labrador.

Adding Pilates and/or yoga into an exercise routine can help with core strength, balance and stability, all important for athletic success and especially vital for aging athletes.

For runners, there have long been debates on how the surface you run on and the cadence, or how fast your feet turnover, impacts the force on your hips and knees. Changing your gait may have some effect on your running efficiency and joint protection.

“Working with a PT and a video gait analysis can be helpful for runners struggling with chronic injuries,” said Dr. Labrador.

In terms of what kind of shoes to wear, while there are constantly new trends, most studies show that the best shoe for you is the one that feels the most comfortable, she added. But if you change from a shoe that has a lot of support, to a more minimal shoe and continue to run the same mileage you may end up with new issues related to your feet or Achilles tendon.

“Don’t be a victim of marketing. If the shoe you are running in works for you, don’t feel compelled to change it,” cautioned Dr. Labrador.

Recovery is as important as a sensible exercise routine when it comes to injury prevention. “Sleep is incredibly underrated. Sleep is when the body repairs itself,” said Dr. Labrador.

While there is no one-size-fits-all diet to support athletes and help prevent injuries, in general it is a good idea to limit sugar, alcohol, processed foods and trans fats, and to maintain a healthy weight to help protect joints.

“Exercise is probably the most powerful medicine we have in terms of preventing many diseases, so I tell people to just keep moving,” said Dr. Labrador. “If you have to change your routine to stay active there are plenty of options. If running is no longer comfortable, you can try biking or swimming or an elliptical.”