Many people are vowing to get into shape as their 2022 resolution — only to find unwelcome barriers that include doing too much too soon and causing overuse injuries to the knees, ankles and feet, or repetitive “micro-trauma” to the tendons, bones, and joints.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased these fitness commitments to combat too much sitting at home and too many Zoom meetings. Now, there’s an increase in purchases of treadmills or stationary cycles for the home, creating a separate trend of equipment mishaps including traumatic injuries, explains Luis Rodriguez, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.
Seeking Guidance From Your Doctor
It’s important for everyone to understand exercise tolerance, he says. Before starting any exercise routine, any individual with underlying health issues should consult with a physician. Those individuals include seniors who may be unsteady on their feet or anyone who takes medications that may interfere with moderate exercise activities — even brisk walking.
“If you’re someone who has a history of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, asthma — as a few examples — it’s a good idea to consult with your physician. Also, if you’re older: usually 45-years-old for men and 55-years-old for women, and have never engaged in regular activities — then you may want to consult with a physician first, especially if you are planning to engage in vigorous exercise. However, if you’re someone who’s been very active in the past and never had any issues related to exercise, it’s just that you’ve been inactive for a bit, and you have no underlying conditions or other cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. hypertension, diabetes) then a consultation may not be necessary.”
Common Injuries Amongst the Inexperienced
It’s the individuals in the category of starting intense exercising for the first time that are most likely to see injuries in the new year from an overly zealous approach.
Injuries from exercising too much too soon or from accidents on exercise equipment send hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. to the emergency room every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“It’s important to know that these devices can be dangerous, but if used properly the risk is low,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “Everyone needs to understand that there’s a learning curve. If you buy a treadmill, it’s not the same as walking on the street. You have to get used to it if you’ve never done it before. You have to know how to adjust the speed. You have to know where that switch is to stop it in case of an emergency. So, reading the instructions and giving yourself time to learn are the most important things.”
When Soreness or Pain Needs Medical Care
It’s also important not to ignore your body’s aches and pains — especially if you’re relatively new to regular exercising.
“I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point or another, especially those who like to be active,” explains Dr. Rodriguez. “You go to the gym and you haven’t done weights for a while. You do weights one day and the next day you feel very, very sore — almost to the point that it’s difficult to move your extremities.”
It’s vital to know that some soreness after exercise is normal and that type of pain usually peaks 48 hours after exercise — and then gradually decreases, he adds. That’s not unusual for beginning an exercise routine.
“So, the first time you go to the gym and you lift weights, you feel like your muscles are sore all over and the soreness is pretty severe,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “But once you get into a rhythm of going to the gym multiple days a week and doing a weight-lifting routine, then that soreness seems not to be as severe.”
However, if the pain or soreness persists, you need to consult with a physician.
“If you have muscle soreness or pain in a certain area of the body that does not decrease 48 hours to 72 hours after exercising, then that may need medical attention,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “As another example, any pain that you have in your lower extremity that does not allow you to bear weight on that extremity — that’s unlikely to represent normal soreness after exercise and the individual should seek care.”
And if you notice “any visible swelling in one of your joints or muscles, or any bruising — those should be reasons for concern and reasons to seek care,” he adds.