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Don’t let a workout hurt you

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Working out is great for your health but if you haven’t used fitness equipment before or you’re starting an exercise program for the first time it’s important to take some precautions or your goals of improved health may experience a frustrating and painful setback.

Newcomers to the gym often head straight to the elliptical trainer because it provides a great workout, is easy to use and is usually in plentiful supply. But an elliptical can cause overuse injuries in the sensitive forefoot area as the foot never leaves the ground, and instead bends right at the forefoot. Injuries can result from any exercise equipment but equipment that requires repetitive weight-bearing motions, such as the elliptical or similarly popular treadmill, have a higher risk of injury. If you have poor technique, wear improper or worn out footwear or have a muscle imbalance or biomechanical problem with your feet or lower limbs your risk of injury is even greater.

A variety of injuries can occur from fitness machines but heel pain, shin splints and forefoot pain are the most common. Here are some tips to reduce your risk:

  • If you’re new to the gym, ask a staff member to show you how to use each piece of equipment. If you’re using a fitness machine at home, carefully read the instruction guide or watch an instructional online video before getting started.
  • Whichever equipment you’re using, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time.
  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear for your individual biomechanics, foot type and activity.
  • If you experience foot or lower limb pain following a workout, consult a Canadian Certified Pedorthist to determine if different footwear or a custom made foot orthotic will help.

When used properly, exercise machines are great tools for helping you achieve your fitness goals. However, don’t let your enthusiasm for improved health and fitness hurt you. Take the time to learn how to use the equipment correctly, don’t do too much too quickly and consult your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist if you experience ongoing pain in your feet or lower limbs.

By Anne Putnam C. Ped (C), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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