Avoiding Exercise-Related Injury

A regular regimen of physical activity is an important part of maintaining long-term weight loss, but it's important to follow certain precautions before beginning an exercise routine.
Avoiding Exercise Related Injury

Lasting weight loss is closely linked with regular physical activity. Unfortunately, many individuals begin exercising too eagerly, only to suffer from an injury that forces them to stop the activity and often to seek medical attention. Taking preventive steps to avoid exercise-related injuries is a smart step toward establishing a successful physical activity program.

Factors that Increase Risk of Injury
There are several preventable factors that can increase the risk for an exercise-related injury:

  • Poor technique1
  • Improper equipment (e.g., improper footwear)1
  • Inappropriate surfaces1
  • Training errors (e.g., excessive mileage or sudden change in running distance)2
  • Vigorous activity that averages burning more than 400 calories per exercise session
  • Inadequate warm up and cool down
  • Inadequate stretching

Individuals may also be at risk from an abnormal joint anatomy or alignment, underlying muscle weakness, imbalance or excess weight.3

Some of these factors can lead to a common exercise-related injury known as an overuse injury. These injuries are generally caused by repetitive stress to the body which damages the muscle tissue. Overuse injuries often occur from changing an exercise mode, intensity or duration before the muscles have been adequately trained.4

Preventing Injury
The risk of injury is less likely when engaging in low or moderate intensity activities, when exercise intensity and the time spent in activity are increased gradually, and when good body mechanics are used. Body mechanics are a set of techniques to prevent and correct problems related to posture during daily activities including working, resting and exercise. They are especially important in preventing injury when beginning an exercise program because poor posture habits are commonly part of a sedentary lifestyle. Other factors like warming up and stretching help to improve muscle and joint flexibility, prevent excessive soreness and decrease the overall risk of injury.

Those who are more than 40 pounds are more prone to injury. When excess weight is an issue, it is recommended that individuals engage in low impact physical activities, like cycling or swimming, until some of the weight is lost.

If injury during exercise does occur, treatment recommendations generally include rest, rehabilitative exercises, and in some cases, medication.

The Weight Watchers Approach:

To reduce the likelihood of overuse injury, Weight Watchers recommends that no more than an average of 6 daily activity PointsPlus values be earned unless the exercise is being done under the supervision of a qualified exercise professional.

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1 Renstrom P, Johnson RJ. Overuse injuries in sports. A review. Sports Med. 1985 Sep-Oct;2(5):316-33.

2 O'Toole ML. Prevention and treatment of injuries to runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992 Sep;24(9 Suppl):S360-3.

3 Saxon L, Finch C, Bass S. Sports participation, sports injuries and osteoarthritis: implications for prevention. Sports Med. 1999 Aug;28(2):123-35.

4 Wilder RP, Sethi S. Overuse injuries: tendinopathies, stress fractures, compartment syndrome, and shin splints. Clin Sports Med. 2004 Jan;23(1):55-81, vi.