This is one of my favourite times of the year, when Christmas has passed and in the evenings around the tracks, across the playing fields and by the Savannah you see many persons, young and old exercising and training for many reasons.
While many people might be exercising in preparation for Carnival, to build their physique, develop stamina, endurance and strength for the road, there are the few who are exercising to improve their health. Whatever their reasons be, it makes me very happy to see many persons exercising, additionally it acts as encouragement for others who want to exercise, there is a high energy and sense of positivity in the air and most people feel safe exercising because there is more company.
Benefits of Exercise
This change in exercise behaviour, if maintained throughout the year would offer great health benefits to individuals, families, and even the country on a whole. Because many of the chronic diseases associated with high economic costs can be prevented or controlled with exercises and other lifestyle changes, saving families thousands of dollars and the government millions. How is this possible? Well it is medically proven that regular exercise has the ability to lower the risk of the following illnesses by up to: 35% coronary heart disease and stroke, 50% type 2 diabetes, 50% colon cancer, 20% breast cancer, 30% early death, 83% osteoarthritis, 68% hip fractures, 30% falls (amongst older adults), 30% depression and 30% dementia. Exercise and physical activity are like a magic drug, that’s free! Other well-known benefits of exercises are making you fitter, stronger, look "better", feel more energised, happier, less stressed and sleep better. I am very sure; everyone would appreciate all these benefits (and there are many more).
Injury Risk, Prevention and Exercise
While exercise is great, it still carries a risk for injury, however the health risks associated with not exercising or being physically inactive far outweighs those risks of injury with exercising. However, there are a few very simple precautions that you can take to decrease your risk of injury, so you can continue to exercise and achieve those 2020 health and fitness goals.
Is Exercise Safe for me?
Exercise is actually safe for majority people, if you exercise regularly and have no cardiovascular, metabolic or renal disease or signs/symptoms to suggest that you do, then it is safe to continue exercising without consulting a doctor, but if you do but currently you are not showing symptoms then continue to exercise (once you have received medical clearance in the last 12 months). If your symptoms start to manifest then visit your doctor, if not continue exercising. People who do not exercise regularly and have no cardiovascular, metabolic or renal disease or signs/symptoms to suggest that you do, then it is safe to start exercising without consulting a doctor, begin at light intensities then progress gradually. If you do not exercise regularly but have these diseases or symptoms suggestive of them, then please get medical clearance from your doctor.
Treat Old and Current Injuries
Ironically, a history of previous injuries this one of the greatest risk factors for getting injured, especially if previous injuries were not managed properly or addressed. If you have an old injury or a current one, before you start to aggressively exercise, it would be good if you consult a registered physical therapist, an orthopaedic or sports doctor or a licensed rehabilitation professional. Correcting old or present injuries will make you exercise better, more confidently and move safely. Physiotherapy can help to rehabilitate injuries, correct biomechanics and train you in basic exercise movements then graduate you to a strength and conditioning coach. Persistent aches, soreness and pain are usually signs of injury.
Should I Train with Certified/Licensed Professionals?
Many persons can exercise safely and independently, by walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, skipping, etc. and reap many health benefits. While there are few who may not be certain of how to exercise, some might need guidance or that extra motivation to exercise, maintain the behaviour and assist them in reaching their health and fitness goals. Many times, I have seen persons who are injured because they were being trained by persons who are not licensed/certified (up to date) fitness trainers or strength and conditioning coaches. Trained professionals are capable of doing pre-training assessments, individualized training programmes, teach correct exercises and mechanics and properly manage load progression, deficiency in these areas normally results in persons becoming injured.
While there might not be an ideal shoe, it is normally advice that you try shoes that are designed for exercising. Do not exercise in slippers, flip flops, old worn out sneakers, dress shoes or designer sneakers, these would not support the mechanics of running and other exercise movements, which will result eventually in foot aches and pain, or knee injuries. Barefoot or minimalist running which has grown in popularity over the last decade, while they can help in the management of some injuries, there is no evidence currently to support it as an injury prevention strategy.
Other Factors to Consider
Try Different Exercises - Adding variety to your exercise regime, makes it more enjoyable and also helps to prevent injuries. Doing the same activity over and over again, will lead to boredom, decreased
motivation and increased likelihood of overuse injuries. For example, if you are a runner, instead of running everyday has days in the week that you do strength training, or do some other aerobic exercises, play multiple sports, etc. Just remember, variety is the spice of life. Build Mileage Gradually - many people may be doing a lot of running because this is a popular and easy form of exercise. However, persons are currently now trying to push themselves, especially those who want to catch the carnival train, increasing their running mileage drastically, which can lead to a lot of aches, pains and persistent soreness or overuse injuries. Gradually progress your mileage, allowing your
body time to adapt and recover.
Strengthen Hip and Core Muscles - gradually progress these exercises, you cannot go wrong, getting strong. Stronger persons tend to be more resilient and have less injuries.
Warm Up and Stretching - static stretching before exercise or any event does not reduce the chances of being injured. However, dynamic stretches and activities which are similar to those you will be doing in the session, when performed at lower intensities during warm up, prepares the body for the work ahead and reduces the risk of injury.
Rest, Recovery and Good Nutrition - Last but in no way least, these are very important, they will help the body to adapt to exercise related bodily changes and ensure you have enough energy to keep on going. Wishing All a healthy and safe 2020! May your fitness/health goals become a reality!
Adrian Palmer, PT, BScPT, PAPHS
Registered Physical Therapist (RPT)
ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist