The new year begins with many people vowing to get fit as their 2022 resolution, only to face undesirable barriers including overdoing it too soon and overuse injuries to the knees, ankles and feet or the repetitive “microtraumas” common in tendons, bones and joints.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased this trend of exercising to combat excessive sitting at home and Zoom meetings. Now, there is an increase in purchases of treadmills or stationary bikes for the home, creating a separate trend of exercise equipment mishaps including traumatic injuries, explains Luis Rodriguez, MD, a sports medicine doctor with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.
Seek your doctor’s advice
It’s important for everyone to know exercise tolerance, he says. Before starting any exercise routine, anyone with underlying health problems should consult a doctor. Those people include the elderly who may not have stable feet or anyone taking medications that may interfere with moderate exercise activities, including brisk walking.
“If you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, for example, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor. Also, if you are an older person, usually 45 for men and 55 for women, and have never engaged in regular activities, you may want to see a doctor first, especially if you plan to do any intense exercise. However, if you have been very active in the past and have never had exercise-related problems, have only been inactive for a while, and have no underlying conditions or other cardiovascular risk factors (for example, hypertension or diabetes), then a consultation may not be necessary.”
Common injuries among the inexperienced
It’s the people taking up intense exercise for the first time who are most likely to be injured in the new year due to over-zealousness.
Injuries from exercising too much too soon or from accidents involving gym equipment send hundreds of thousands of people in the US to emergency rooms each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“It is important to know that this equipment can be dangerous, but if it is used correctly the risk is low,” said Dr. Rodríguez. “Everyone has to understand that there is a learning curve. If you buy a treadmill, it’s not the same as walking down the street. It takes getting used to if you’ve never done it before. You have to know how to adjust the speed. You have to know where the switch is to stop it in an emergency. So reading the instructions and giving yourself time to learn is the most important thing.”
When discomfort or pain requires medical attention
It’s also important not to ignore your body’s aches and pains, especially if you’re relatively new to regular exercise.
“I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point, especially those of us who like to be active,” explains Dr. Rodriguez. “We go to the gym and we haven’t done weights for a long time. We lift weights one day and the next day we feel very, very sore, almost to the point where it’s hard to move our limbs.”
It’s important to know that some soreness after exercise is normal, and that soreness typically peaks 48 hours after exercise, then gradually subsides, he adds. That’s not unusual when starting an exercise routine.
“So the first time you go to the gym and lift weights, you’ll feel like your muscles are sore all over and the pain is pretty intense,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “But once you get into the groove of going to the gym several days a week and doing a weight lifting routine, then that pain may not be as severe.”
However, if the discomfort or pain persists, it is necessary to consult a doctor.
“If you have muscle soreness or pain in a certain area of your body that doesn’t subside 48 to 72 hours after you exercise, then you may need medical attention,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “As another example, any pain you have in your lower extremity that doesn’t allow you to bear weight on that extremity, that’s unlikely to represent normal pain after exercise and the person should seek medical attention.”
Also, if you notice “any visible swelling in one of the joints or muscles or any kind of bruising, that’s cause for concern and reason to seek care,” he adds.