If you’ve been anywhere near a gym or the television, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people talking about High Intensity Interval Training programs, which promise to help people rapidly meet their fitness goals.
But before you sign up for the latest HIIT class, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is reminding people to approach this program – and all exercise – with safety in mind.
“The key to safe exercise is moderation,” said AAOS spokeswoman Dr. Letha Griffin. “Individuals shouldn’t be deterred from pushing their bodies to the limit because that’s how you build strength and endurance. However, pushing too far, too fast, leaves the body prone to traumatic injuries, such as sprains and even fractures.”
Dr. Griffin, who practices in Atlanta, said she treats patients for a variety of lower body injuries that are associated with extreme-types of exercise training workouts such as common knee injuries and tears to the patella tendon.
The number of exercise-related injuries also appears to be increasing. In 2012, more than 939,700 Americans received medical treatment for hurting themselves while exercising – approximately 100,000 more people than in 2011, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To reduce your risk for exercise-related injuries, the AAOS offers the following safety tips:
- Extreme workouts are not for beginners. Start with a program of moderate physical activity— perhaps 30 minutes a session. If 30 minutes is too much in the beginning, break it up into shorter intervals. For instance, walk for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes later in the day.
- Follow a schedule. Both new and experienced exercisers benefit from following a schedule. Set a weekly exercise schedule that includes days off – rest days. For example, you might exercise every other day, with 3 days off each week.
- Embark on a balanced fitness program. A program that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training, flexibility and balance training is preferable for optimal health and fitness. A balanced exercise program also will keep you from getting bored and lessen your chance for injury.
- Warm up first. Run in place for a few minutes, breathe slowly and deeply, or gently rehearse the motions of the exercise to follow. Warming up increases your heart and blood flow rates and loosens up other muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
- Stretch. Begin stretches slowly and carefully until reaching a point of muscle tension. Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and then slowly and carefully release it. Inhale before each stretch and exhale as you release. Do each stretch only once. Never stretch to the point of pain. Always maintain control.
- Use proper equipment. First, look for running or athletic shoes that provide good construction, shock absorption and foot stability. Also, make sure that there is a thumbnail’s width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. As 60 percent of a shoe’s shock absorption is lost after 250 to 500 miles of use, people who run up to 10 miles per week should consider replacing their shoes every 9 to 12 months. Also, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that allow you to move freely and easily release body heat. When exercising in cold weather, dress in removable layers.
- Take your time. During strength training, move through the full range of motion with each repetition. Breathe regularly to help lower your blood pressure and increase blood supply to the brain.
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Drink 1 pint of water 15 minutes before you start exercising and another pint after you cool down. Have a drink of water every 20 minutes or so while you exercise.
- Cool down. Make cooling down the final phase of your exercise routine. It should take twice as long as the warm up. Slow your motions and lessen the intensity of your movements for at least 10 minutes before you stop completely. This phase of a safe exercise program should conclude when your skin is dry and you have cooled down.
Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons news release
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