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Published on December 23, 2014

Beware of Your New Year's Resolution

Use Caution When Starting an Exercise Program

Dr. BarrerOne of the most popular New Year’s resolutions people make every year is to lose weight and get fit. Walk into any gym after January 1 and you’ll be shocked at how crowded the place is.

We’re constantly being told how good exercise is for the body, and hearing about the newest fitness crazes out there that claim to drastically transform your physique. But you likely don’t ever hear that exercise can actually hurt you.

“Just as the individual deserves to know the potential complications of surgical procedures or the dangers of climbing a ladder, so too should you be aware of the potential injuries that come from engaging in exercise or sports,” said Dr. Steven Barrer, director of The Neurosciences Institute at Abington Memorial Hospital and author of the book “Exercise Will Hurt You: Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injury, and How the Dangers of Sports and Exercise Can Affect Your Health.”

From the most experienced athlete to someone stepping foot into a gym for the first time, injuries are very possible.

“From head and knee injuries, to back and ankle sprains, everyone can be injured as a result of exercise,” Dr. Barrer said.

Ease In to New Workouts

Oftentimes, people who make New Year’s resolutions about getting to the gym more frequently are tempted to speed things up with an extra workout here and there, picking up heavier weights or trying a more intense fitness class. But overdoing exercise, especially after a hiatus, can lead to serious injuries.

And whether you’re jumping into a group fitness class or joining friends for a game of pickup basketball as your choice of exercise, head injuries are always a possibility.

“It doesn’t take one big hit or many big hits to the head to result in a brain injury. Lots of little hits can also cause a concussion or brain injury,” he explained.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise – it simply means you need to educate yourself and use some common sense when it comes to breaking a sweat and burning calories.

“Educating yourself about the dangers of sports and exercise and demanding that those with oversight make an effort to mitigate them is the best way to protect yourself and still participate,” Dr. Barrer explained.

If you want to improve your health and fitness, but want to avoid injuries, here are some tips to keep in mind before hitting the gym.

Don't Overdo It

“Listen to your body,” Dr. Barrer stated. This means if something doesn’t feel right, don’t keep going and try to push through. If your muscles are sore, let them rest. If you’re exhausted at work all day, skip the gym that night. It’s important to give your muscles the opportunity to heal and let your body rest in between workouts.

“Forget ‘no pain, no gain’ – it’s a myth,” he said. If you’re participating in an exercise and feel a sudden or sharp pain, stop. If you ignore that signal and try to push through it, you could seriously injure yourself.

Use Good Equiptment

Not all gym equipment is created equally.

“Use good equipment – it will improve safety,” Dr. Barrer said. If you’re at a gym, give a piece of equipment an exam before you use it to make sure it’s in good working order. Free weights shouldn’t have cracks or chips, barbells should have two safety clamps, weight machines’ safety bars or clamps should be functioning properly, and treadmills should have a safety cut-off button you can easily press in case you lose pace with the machine.

When choosing a fitness class or exercise, Dr. Barrer recommends avoiding an activity with “a high pound index,” i.e. a lot of pounding on your feet. This can be particularly tough on your joints and lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, sprains, stress fractures and more.

Avoid Doing the Same Workouts

You should also avoid doing the same workouts over and over again.

“Vary your workout and watch out for overuse injuries,” Dr. Barrer advised. Doing a variety of low-impact activities like walking, biking and swimming in moderation can help prevent overuse injuries. That’s because they allow your body to use different muscle groups.


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