Did you know that exercise can hurt you?
I didn't either.
When it came to health and fitness, I focused on things like weight loss, body image, and healthy living.
I never gave any thought to safety.
In fact, I had to attend personal training school in order to realize just how dangerous exercise could be.
I sat through 360 hours of academic education and hands-on practical application just to find out there are hidden dangers that lurk beneath the surface of a lifestyle designed to inspire optimal health and well-being.
Now before I go on, let me just mention something...
I'm a HUGE fan of exercise for every reason imaginable.
Working out provides strength, flexibility and improved function in our day to day lives.
It keeps us young, energized and sharp.
It's just that in order to have exercise work in your favor, there are things you need to be aware of.
Things that can hinder your health if you aren't careful.
Exercise comes with risks. Being unaware of them can lead to unnecessary injury – and even death.
So to make sure this doesn't happen to you, I'll mention three ways your exercise program can actually cause more harm than good – and what you can do to make sure this doesn't happen. There are several ways your workout can hurt you.
3 Ways Your Workout Can Hurt You (and How to Protect Yourself)
But for the sake of keeping this easy reading, I'll discuss what I consider are the three most important things for you to know.
Prevention is a way to apply hindsight in the present moment. Once you're hurt, there isn't much you can do except go through the healing process if your injuries aren't fatal.
Awareness, on the other hand, is a friend.
So keep what I have to say here in mind the next time you work out. You'll be thankful you've stumbled across this information. Believe it or not, this can be deadly.
SAFETY TIP #1 – DON'T CHEW GUM WHILE EXERCISING
Yet, we see professional athletes chewing gum as if it were completely normal when in reality, this is a dangerous practice.
When we exercise, our level of inhalation increases. When this happens, the likelihood of whatever is in our mouth getting sucked into our throats is much higher...
...and since gum is flexible in texture, it can "mold" itself to fit perfectly into the airway. Under these circumstances, even with a qualified rescuer performing the proper abdominal thrusts to expel the object, it may or may not happen.
And the longer the brain goes without oxygen, the higher your chances are of suffering permanent brain damage.
This is one chance you don't want to take. The consequences far outweigh the benefits here.
If you're fortunate to be around someone who can (possibly) save you, it's still an unfortunate occurrence. If you're on your own, you're out of luck.
To protect yourself:
Simply don't chew gum (or have anything else in your mouth) while exercising. If your mouth gets dry, either keep some water around or get one of those natural hydrating mouth sprays. Warming up and cooling down may seem like therapeutic activities to engage in before and after working out, but in truth, they play a far more important role than that.
SAFETY TIP #2 – WARM UP AND COOL DOWN
Warming up before exercising prepares your body for the stress you're about to place on your heart, joints and muscles.
If you're about to start lifting weights (and it doesn't matter whether you're using dumbbells, resistance bands or your own bodyweight) – then you need to loosen things up before adding resistance. Otherwise, you may be putting yourself at risk for an injury.
The same goes for your heart.
If you begin a cardiovascular workout, your heart needs to prepare for the upcoming activity you're about to embark on.
Think of it this way –
When the weather is cold, you need to warm up your car before you drive it, right?
Why is this?
Because if you don't, you may blow the engine.
It works the same way with your body.
Cooling down is more than just a way to relax after exercising. It could literally save your life.
When your heart rate has been elevated for a period of time, you must slow down your activities before you suddenly stop.
The reason is because of blood pooling.
Blood pooling is when the blood settles in the lower extremities of the body and doesn't make its way back up to the heart via skeletal muscle tissue (movement).
When blood pooling occurs, there is a risk of fainting and/or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
Now, believe it or not, people have died from this.
You probably won't find any info on the web about blood pooling causing death, though.
However, it has happened.
When I attended personal training school at Fitness Institute International, Dr. Abbott (the president and chief instructor) discussed the topic at length and included some unfortunate real-life examples of people who have died from blood pooling due to lack of a proper cool down in our course outline.
I've shared a few of them in my exercise safety book.
It's a risk you don't need to take.
To protect yourself:
You don't have to spend a lot of time warming up and cooling down. A few minutes of each will work wonders.
Just keep moving and allow your heart rate to return to normal. If for some reason you need to stop exercising to take a phone call, use the restroom or anything else, make sure to keep moving.
Do NOT just stop and stand around.
It's a simple solution to a problem that can cause more damage than you can imagine, so consider implementing this advice before and after your next workout. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "no pain, no gain", right?
SAFETY TIP #3 – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Unfortunately, this has made its way around the health and fitness industry for quite some time. People take it literally.
This is not a good thing.
Pain is the body's way of telling you something doesn't feel right.
So if this is the case, you may be wondering...
"Isn't exercise supposed to hurt in order for it to produce results?"
The answer is sort of. This is where it helps to be able to identify the difference between good and bad pain.
Good exercise pain feels like you've been working hard. You may feel muscle soreness or the "burn" that accompanies a challenging exercise. You might even experience a bit of wobbliness (as though you've maxed out your ability to do another rep with good form).
All in all, you feel pretty good, though. You walk away from the workout with a sense of accomplishment. Any post-exercise muscle soreness (PEMS) or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) may be a bit uncomfortable, but it isn't debilitating. It also usually goes away within a couple of days.
Bad exercise pain is different – and alarming. It comes across as an impending cramp, pull, or strain.
It feels as though something isn't right. It's your body's way of telling you to stop what you're doing right now – regardless of what you think you ought to do, what your trainer's telling you to do, etc.
To protect yourself:
Know the difference between good and bad exercise pain and you'll make your fitness program a successful one – instead of one that leaves you injured and dejected.
Follow the messages your body gives you. You can always pick up where you left off if you stop to prevent a possible strain or sprain. Once you're injured, though, you're out of luck. Browse through the internet, read the fitness magazines and watch the workout shows on tv or Youtube and I will guarantee that you won't find a lot of info about exercise safety.
THIS INFORMATION IS UNCOMMON AND UNPOPULAR
This is because people, unfortunately, still don't consider preventative action to be sexy or interesting.
We humans are attracted to drama. So the question is:
Is drama in the form of an incapacitating injury more fascinating than well-being?
And if so, why?
Think about that.
Heed this advice. It's simple to follow and it's been designed to empower you, keep you safe and proactive in your wellness program.
I'm a well-qualified wellness coach and fitness professional. I'm also the author of an exercise safety book.
Knowing how to protect yourself from injury is more important than you may realize. Sure, it seems like common sense. But in a world where we focus on quick weight loss, vanity, and drama, prevention doesn't exactly come to mind.
This is why I discuss these things.
It could save your life.
Exercise can be fun and enjoyable. It can result in numerous benefits.
Just do it the right way. I promise, you'll be happy you did.
Have you given any thought to the subject of exercise safety? If not, do you think you will now?
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