Hitting the gym to burn off the calories accumulated over a month of festivities is a penance that most are familiar with.
It erases some guilt of over-indulgence in an unhealthy diet and puts us back on track towards attaining that healthy body and physique.
However, in tandem with the increasing number of health cubs and yearning for a healthy lifestyle is an increase in the number of body injuries sustained during gym work outs.
It all boils down to the lack of awareness especially among newbies, of the potential injuries they can incur at the gym and how to know when they have to stop and get help.
Ara Damansara Medical Centre consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Shamsul Iskandar Hussein said the most common type of injuries sustained in the gym are those to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage in various parts of the body.
“In the leg the common injuries are those to the foot, shin, knee and hamstring,” he said.
These are usually caused by the lack of warm-up exercises and repetitive stress to the same area.
“The knee especially is prone to injuries from twisting movements done in a wrong manner,” said Dr Shamsul.
Exercise machines that simulate skiing movements for example, require twisting the hip or waist but the common mistake people make is twisting the knee which results in injury to that part.
“Other common injuries sustained in the gym are to the lower back, spine, neck and shoulder where slippage or breaks can be incurred,’ he said.
“Static running, jumping on the trampoline, balancing exercises and jumping squats are other exercises that can result in injury if the body is not positioned properly.”
What causes these injuries?
- The lack of warming up and stretching before starting exercises, this is especially important in a gym environment as it is air-conditioned and can sometime get too cold, causing muscles to contract. So stretch properly and warm up the body for your workout. Among the exercises that can help warm up the body are rope-skipping, walking/running on the treadmill and cycling.
- Starting with heavy weight lifting and high intensity exercises, especially beginners who are ignorant. If unsure of how to use equipment or how to position your body correctly when using these equipment, it is always safer to engage a trainer to give you instructions on how to use the machines in the gym and the correct posture and stance to adapt when using these.
- Monotonous workouts and lack of exercise variation will result in disproportionate muscle growth. Exercise that focusses on only strengthening one particular area or muscle can cause injuries to other parts of the body as the body’s workout is incomplete.
- Continuing when there is injury or pain. Listen to your body. Stop and evaluate what is wrong if you feel persistent pain in a certain area. Painkillers, rest and icing the affected area will help but if it is persistent seek professional help.
- Go for a medical check-up before you start at the gym so that a professional can endorse your health condition before you start.
- Hydration is important, especially in a climate like ours which is hot and humid. The general requirement is seven glasses of water a day, but if you are exercising this should be increased, especially if you are on protein shakes or a high protein diet.
- Suitable attire for the gym is ones that allow the body to sweat and clothes should be changes frequently to avoid infection. Also important are the kind of shoes, as wearing the wrong kind can injure your foot.
- It is best to exercise when you are not too tired as your body needs energy especially for high intensity workouts so it is advisable not to exercise when you are too tired after a long day at work. Sleep and rest is important to ensure effective recuperation and growth of muscles. It is sufficient to work out three to four times a week or to do a variety of exercises – gym, swimming, cycling, jogging, etc
When do you know that something is wrong?
“Your body tells you that something is not right when there is severe pain to the point where you can no longer continue exercising.
“Pain can be an acute onset type of pain or you may feel it the day after,” said Dr Shamsul.
“Next, look out for popping and cracking sounds – especially in the knee and shoulder when carrying weights.
“Seek medical help immediately if pain or discomfort persists.”