As another year begins, you may be embarking upon a new exercise programme as part of your New Year’s resolutions or you may be returning to a regular exercise programme after a period of time away from a regular routine. Here are our top tips on how to reduce the risk of injury upon resuming or beginning an exercise programme.
Injuries such as lower limb pain, calf/hamstring strains, shoulder injury, lower back and neck strains are commonly seen by physiotherapists mid to late January, These injuries have been commonly sustained during an attempt to try and improve fitness for a New Year’s resolution after having a prolonged period away from exercise.
The majority of these injuries are due to the obvious sudden increase in exercise volume and intensity. However, many of these injuries could have also been prevented with an appropriate progressive exercise plan.
Tips & Tricks for your New Year exercise programme
Take a look below for ways to minimise your chances of getting injured in your New Year exercise programme:
- Don’t be tempted to start that high intensity exercise such as a boot camp or Crossfit just yet without a previous base of activity. Simply start by getting off the couch and doing some cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. This sounds very basic, but if you haven’t walked, cycled or swam for 45mins 3-5x per week for the last few months, how on earth do you think your body will cope with running, jumping, boxing and doing push-ups and burpees for 45mins 5x per week?
- If you MUST do boot camps, or Crossfit, or other forms of high intensity interval training start by doing so 2x per week ONLY (non-consecutive days) for the first 2-3 weeks and then increase to 3x per week, then to 4x, then to 5x slowly and progressively thereafter.
- The other 2-3 days of the week can be filled with low-moderate intensity exercise (maximum 60-70% of perceived exertion) such as walking, bike riding, swimming, pilates, yoga. The reasoning behind this is that it takes 48 hours in trained individuals for muscles to recover from a dose of high intensity exercise (1), and 72 hours for tendons to recover from a dose of high intensity exercise, and any attempt to do back-to-back days in untrained individuals will soon result in an “overuse” injury.
- Don’t shy away from strengthening exercises, strengthening-alone has been shown in a systematic review of 26,000 participants to be far superior to stretching-alone in reducing the risk of “overuse” injuries by 50% and reduces the risk of acute injuries by 30% (2).
- Simple body-weight exercises are a great way to compliment your cardiovascular activity. You don’t need fancy gym equipment and extra load when you’re first starting out. The increased nerve drive to the working muscles from 2-3 weeks of body-weight exercises such as squats, step ups, sidesteps, calf raises, bench/knee/toe push ups and side planks will put you in a good place to start some heavier lifting (if you want to) in late January. 2-3x strength sessions per week is all you need. As you progress your lifting programme remember that high loads are not the problem, it is how you get to these high loads that is the problem, don’t progress exercise loads by more than 10-20% per week! (3)
- Don’t forget to take time for rest and recovery, including sleep! In order for your body to adapt to the exercise that you are doing, your body needs sleep and days resting from exercise. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults require 7-9 hours sleep per night. Less sleep equates to higher injury rates and poor physical and mental performance. Studies have shown that those people who have less than 2 rest days per week, have a 5x increased risk of overuse injury than those who have 2 or more rest days per week (4).
- Set realistic, achievable goals: If your goal is to lose 10kg in 1 month, it’s time to get a reality check. This weight loss is simply not sustainable and the potential for injury is high. Be sensible; 0.5-1.0kg per week is a more realistic and sustainable way to try and lose weight.
- Remember that exercise is stressing muscles which need to be rebuilt (hopefully bigger and stronger than before). For your body to be able to do this you need to ensure that you are eating sufficient protein, which are broken down into amino acids in the body – “the building blocks of life”. Many people believe drinking a protein shake within 30 minutes of exercise will maximise their results in the gum. This 30-minute window, commonly known as the “anabolic window”, is a short period of time in which muscles are like a sponge for protein. The thought is that if you consume protein outside of the anabolic window, your body won’t effectively utilize it or build muscle (5). Research now suggests that this anabolic window of opportunity is longer than 30 minutes and may not be limited to after exercise (6). In fact, if may not matter if you drink a protein shake before or after your workout in terms of optimizing muscle repair and growth.
- Hydration is key and it is important to drink plenty of water before exercising. If you’ve increased your activity then you will be sweating and breathing more – both of these excrete water from the body.
- Thirst is the first vital sign that you are already dehydrated.
- The colour of your urine is another key indicator of your hydration status. If you’re well hydrated, your urine should be clear, pale yellow colour and nearly odourless (7, 8). Alternatively cloudy, dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. A honey-yellow colour may indicate mild dehydration, while a deep-amber yellow colour with a strong odour can signal severe dehydration (9, 10)
- Muscle cramps can be another sign of dehydration, particularly when it is caused by excessive sweating (as is the case when exercising) (11).So there you have it, our top tips to safely getting resuming or getting started on an exercise program after a prolonged break. This is a very broad overview on how to avoid overuse injuries when embarking on an exercise program, and every individual is different with regard to their exercise tolerance. It is always advisable to consult with your GP or physiotherapist before commencing any exercise or strength training program to ensure that it is it is safe and sustainable for you to have healthy 2019.
And if you do happen to overdo it in your new quest for fitness, remember that we’re always here to help and advise. Just give us a call on 01642 680 680 or email us for expert assistance.
Cheryl Hepples BSc (Hons) MCSP and Marie Dawson Pg Dip NT, BANT, CNHC
“Older People Should Be Offered Tai Chi Classes” (Daily Mail, 11.12.18)
“There are many perceived threats in this world – but few are as real in everyday life as the threat that falls pose to elderly people.
A third of over-65s and 50 per cent of those aged 80-plus have at least one fall a year. As a result there are more than 255,000 emergency admissions among over-65s each year, in England alone.
Falls are a major cause of long-term health problems; plus the knock-on effect on confidence and independence. Many patients had little need to see me until something as innocuous as tripping at home, after which mobility was reduced, and they had to rely on others or move into a home.
It is yet another reason to exercise – the stronger your muscles, the more likely they are to react when you start to fall and keep you upright. Now comes news of a more targeted approach. A recent study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, confirms that Tai Chi is more effective than other interventions such as balance and strengthening classes in preventing falls in the elderly.
In a study of 670 people with a history of falls, twice-weekly Tai Chi sessions over six months lowered the fall rate by half.
This ancient Chinese martial art involves breathing, movement, awareness, exercise and meditation. Why is it so effective? I think the slow, repeated purposeful movements, conducted with a calm and clear state of mind make you more aware of how you move, while improving flexibility, so falls become less likely.
And it is the perfect antidote to the stress and pressure of the digital age. I’ve just done my second class. It’s enlightening, invigorating – and harder than it looks.”
If you’re interested in joining our Tai Chi class, it is held here at Wynyard Park on a Thursday morning from 11am. You can find out more about our available classes, prices and book for the classes using our online booking system. Alternatively, you can give us a call on 01642 680 680 or email us for help.