Most of us have experienced pain from one of the following areas: low back, knees, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Of course, how can we forget the legendary pain in the neck (speaking literally, not figuratively)? We don’t expect to be injured while exercising, but according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year hundreds of thousands of Americans are rushed to the emergency department due to an injury caused by their exercise routine. What’s the major cause of these injuries?
Excessive force applied to the body is the root cause of the majority of the injuries to our bodies. When our body is exposed to a level of force exceeding its structural strength, it fails. This can mean pulled, strained, or torn muscles and/or connective tissue; broken bones; or worse. Running, for example, exposes the body to a force of two to four times the body weight with every step. A 150-pound runner with an average stride length takes approximately 1,175 steps per mile. This runner would be exposed to approximately 225 tons of force for each mile run. Multiply this out for several miles in each session, and you’ll discover the enormous amount of force the body has to deal with during running.
According to the National Council for Exercise Standards, “Aerobic activities expose the participant to high levels of force and chronic overstressing of muscles, joints and connective tissues. As a result, aerobic activities directly cause a multitude of injuries and physical debilities such as osteoarthritis, stress fractures, tendonitis, sprains, strains, ligament damage, muscle pulls and other maladies.”
In reference to aerobic activities, Dr. Doug McGuff said, “It amazes me that people pursue this incredibly destructive activity in the quest for cardiovascular health, when all they are really doing is destroying their joints and wasting away their muscles so that eventually they will be unable to carry out activities of daily living and thus destroy their cardiovascular health.”
In reference to a strength training program, the amount of weight lifted isn’t the main variable that produces an injury. While it’s natural to be aware of the amount of weight, the primary concern should be the amount of acceleration. Acceleration refers to a change in velocity. If your body stops, slows, increases speed, or changes direction, it undergoes acceleration. Therefore, the amount of force is elevated by one’s behavior—jerking, heaving, lunging, yanking, and jabbing; this is all possible even with a small resistance.
Regardless of the effectiveness or efficiency of a particular physical activity, if the nature of that activity carries a significant risk of injury, it shouldn’t be performed for exercise. The real objective of exercise is to stimulate the body to produce physical improvements—not to cause injuries. The next article will provide you with practical information on how to limit the amount of force your body is exposed to during exercise. Always remember—safety first. IBI