This is the time of year when many Americans resolve to get fit, lose weight and pump some iron. Before hitting the gym with reckless abandon, however, Dr. Joshua Harris has some sage advice.
“It’s important to know and respect your body’s limits,” says Harris, an orthopedic surgeon with Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “Start with an exercise program that will slowly build your strength and endurance.”
Nearly 500,000 workout-related injuries occur each year, and Harris notes that some injuries are the result of people doing too much too fast and overusing their muscles. Workout injuries occur gradually and often are hard to diagnose in the bones, tendons and joints, according to Harris.
Poor technique during weightlifting and other exercise activities also can lead to injuries.
“In January, I see an increase in patients with wrist sprains and other hand injuries caused by improper weightlifting,” says Dr. Shari Liberman, a hand and upper-extremity specialist at Houston Methodist Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “Keep your wrist straight when lifting weights. Many people tend to bend the wrist in or let it fall back, which can increase their risk of a sprain or other injury.”
Harris and Liberman offer these tips for easing in to a safe workout regimen:
- Start a light- to moderate-intensity workout three times per week, with the focus on high-repetition, low-weight sets that emphasize larger muscle groups, including the shoulder, hip, pelvis and core.
- Consider working with a personal trainer for a few weightlifting sessions to help develop good form for your wrists and back.
- Stretch after each workout, as increased flexibility can help prevent overuse injuries.
- Allow plenty of time for your muscles to recover in between workouts. “It might take a little longer to get results, but in the end it will prevent injuries,” Harris says.
Liberman also recommends alternating between workout routines to prevent overuse injuries.
“For example, do yoga on Monday, running on Wednesday and weightlifting on Friday,” Liberman says.
Rotating routines comes with an added benefit: increased overall fitness because you’re engaging many different muscles, she says.