Safety and injury prevention should be part of our new year exercise plans

treadmill-300x222Millions of Americans may be hitting the gym as part of their new year resolve to get fitter. They also need to exercise caution and common sense to avoid injuries that could leave them in worse shape.

As the Washington Post reported, the 2018 health club crush will result in “hundreds of thousands of [exercisers] stumbling on treadmills, falling off exercise balls, getting snapped in the face by resistance bands, dropping weights on their toes and wrenching their backs by lifting too much weight.”

Further, the newspaper added:

Nearly 460,000 people went to hospital emergency rooms in 2012 for injuries related to exercise equipment, according to Consumer Products Safety Commission data analyzed by USA Today in 2015. Most were treated and released, but about 32,000 were hospitalized and a few were pronounced dead on arrival.

A little common sense and moderation can protect fitness seekers. Experts say they should know their limits, and start slow and build up the demands of their routines. They should seek out the trained pros at their club to coach them.

They also should take extra care with weight regimens — which should be included in any fitness plans to maintain muscle tone and mass, and to help build bone — that too easily can result in injuries. Treadmills and other motorized exercise equipment also must be navigated with care. Spills on them are too common, and sometimes fatal, especially if users are distracted (with cell phones or music devices) or inattentive.

Fitness fans who are determined to be outdoors in wet, bitterly cold conditions also might want to take protective steps. They should add appropriate gear, in layers, and head to toe. They should be extra aware not to overdo it and to watch for any sign of cold damage, especially frostbite.

Seniors should be wary of falls. The New York Times has put up a good piece about a national campaign in the Netherlands to help older adults navigate better so they avoid slips and mishaps that can be painful, costly, and sometimes so serious they can lead to major health declines.

The story points out that the fear of falling contributes to older adults falling more — their over-caution can cause them to maneuver in shaky ways. Taking a clue from martial arts and other contact sports, experts coach anyone about to take a tumble to first protect their head and neck. They should try to tuck and roll to fleshier parts of the body to absorb the shock — avoiding “foosh,” falling on to outstretched hands, too often resulting in broken wrists, arms, and worse.

By the way, if the holiday gifts included a fitness tracking device, enthusiasts should know that studies show these high-tech gadgets should be taken with an old-fashioned grain of salt. Despite the hype about their benefits and the incessant reminders they can provide, the devices by themselves don’t make users fitter — they sometimes can have opposite outcomes. Health apps and “wearables” do keep getting better and experts see increasing promise to how they soon may improve not just consumers’ fitness but other important aspects of their health, including cardiac care and disease monitoring and control.

In my practice, I see not only the major harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the huge benefits we all can share by staying fit, healthy, and far from the need for medical care. The blog, of course, regularly tackles topics in these areas. The firm’s monthly newsletter also delves deeper into health and medical matters, including diet, nutrition, exercise and fitness. (You can click here and here and here to see).

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