It makes sense: It’s the start of a new year, resolutions to start afresh often include beginning or restarting a regular exercise routine, and those hitting the gym after a long layoff are burning with resolve, drive, and purpose, and filled with visions of their new, energetic, sculpted, and healthy bodies. Thus, they’re eager to reach that goal as quickly as possible.
And within a week or two, they’re coming to see us because they’ve injured themselves.
According to Consumer Products Safety Commission data USA Today analyzed in 2015, nearly 460,000 people went to hospital emergency rooms in 2012 for injuries related to exercise equipment, including stumbles on treadmills, falls off exercise balls, being snapped in the face by resistance bands, dropping weights on their toes, and wrenching their backs by lifting too much weight. Most were treated and released, but some 32,000 had to be hospitalized, and a few were pronounced dead on arrival, according to The Washington Post.
“Right after the holidays, there’s a mad rush of people who have never exercised before or haven’t exercised in a long time,” Leon E. Popovitz, an orthopedic surgeon, told The Post. “That leads to a lot of injuries that normally could be avoided.”
That’s why, while we encourage exercise, we also hope you will ease into whatever routine you choose to follow.
Here are some ideas to help keep you in the studio or gym, and out of the emergency room.
1. Check with us first. The American College of Sports medicine recommends you see your doctor if it’s been three or more months since you exercised. We can evaluate your physical condition, recommend the ideal exercise program for you, and provide tips on how to avoid injuries.
2. Take it easy. Whatever form of exercise you did in the past, you will not be able to resume it at your previous level. It will take approximately six weeks to achieve your prior standard of performance. You must be patient, and work up to your old regimen. Otherwise, you risk hurting yourself, which will cut short your exercise goals, possibly permanently.
3. Warm up. Slow and careful stretching before you work out will help your muscles, joints, and tendons become more pliable as the gradually increased blood flow reaches them. Try to temper your exuberance by working on perfecting your form. Poor workout form is a prime cause of injury during any type of exercise.
4. Begin with flexibility exercises. Yoga, tai chi, and beginners Pilates classes are all good ways to re-accustom your body to movement again. If your flexibility is good, you’re less likely to injure yourself regardless of what type of exercise you’re doing.
5. Move into light cardio workouts. Step classes, treadmill, swimming, biking, even brisk walking, are easy ways to strengthen your heart muscle as well as your entire cardiovascular system and prepare it for more strenuous workouts down the line.
6. Add strength training. Once your body has adjusted to the increased activity, you can begin to add exercises using your own body weight, such as push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises that accustom your body to resistance. Within two or three weeks, you’ll be able to begin adding weights, eventually working up to your previous level.
7. Rest and listen to your body. Along with poor form, failure to pay attention to what your body is telling you is another primary cause of exercise-related injury. Just because your instructor can do it, doesn’t mean you can—yet. And especially with strength training, it’s important to take days off to allow the micro-injuries to your muscles time to heal. You can do flexibility or cardio workouts on your days off.
If you do injure yourself, don’t hesitate to come and see us. You want to be able to keep working out in the future, and we can help ensure you’ll be able to do so.