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Exercise: You’re Doing It Wrong

Posted by bmagnus On September - 28 - 2009

The Detroit Free Press tells us that “Rigorous exercise is hurting a generation trying to defy aging“. They claim the Baby Boomers are pushing themselves too hard, resulting in pain and injury in the pursuit of health. The exercise maladies they describe include back pain, sore shoulders, arthritic knees, tendinitis, and an estimated 282,476 sports related emergency department visits in 2008 (a side bar points out that this is out of 78.2 million Baby Boomers). While accidents do happen, the fact is that there is a lot you can do to avoid exercise related pain and injury.

First, be aware of your own limitations. Another side bar points out “Sure, lots of boomers think they’ll be running marathons into their 80s. But many won’t because they’re obese. Estimates suggest up to 39% of the boomer population is clinically obese.” If you’ve already got iffy knees, a workout regimen heavy in plyometrics is not right for you. If you are new to free weights, start with 5 an 10 pounds rather than 25 and 30 pounds. It’s a lot better to start at a level beneath your abilities and work up than to start too strong and hurt yourself.

Second, there is a difference between “pushing through soreness” and “making your injuries worse.” First aid for almost all sports related injuries starts with “stop the activity“! Your sprain, strain, or tendinitis will not get better if you keep using those body parts no matter how much ibuprofen you take. Trust me, this is the painful voice of experience. And frankly, adequate rest is even important if you aren’t injured.

Third, always always always pay attention to safety first. That means being aware of all the things that can go wrong, inspecting all your equipment before beginning, being mentally involved in what you are doing, and using all appropriate safety gear every time you exercise. One case they cited involved “A 55-year-old suffered skull and pelvis fractures after falling from his bicycle”. It’s a good bet he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Finally, you must pay attention to form. There is a reason exercises are done a certain way: to be as safe and effective as possible. Nowhere is this more true than in the weight room. It is absolutely essential to duplicate as closely as possible the form demonstrated by your trainer, instructor, video, or book. I think it’s a good bet that the “61-year-old woman [who] suffered multiple sprains from leg lifts” was either using too much weight or poor form, maybe both.

If you are suffering from sports related injuries, it’s time to take a break, step back, and figure out why. Your body will still be there next week.

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